Hurricane Florence is expected to pack a potentially life-threatening punch as it continues its path toward the US east coast.
Here’s the latest on the first major storm of America’s 2018 hurricane season:
How bad is it?
As of 8am ET on Thursday, Florence was driving maximum sustained winds of 110mph (177km/h), according to an updated forecast from the National Hurricane Center. That’s down from a high of 140mph, but still expected to cause “life-threatening storm surge and rainfall”. The hurricane, which has been downgraded from a category four storm to a category two, is not expected to weaken any further before it hits the coast.
Where is it?
The outer bands of wind and rain caused by the storm were already lashing North Carolina on Thursday morning. The hurricane is now centered about 220 miles (354km) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and 170 miles to the south-east of Wilmington, North Carolina. It’s moving toward the coast at a speed of 12mph.
When and where will it hit?
Hurricane-like conditions are expected to arrive in the areas covered by warnings by Thursday night or early Friday. The Hurricane Center forecasts that Florence will approach the coasts of North and South Carolina later on Thursday, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina on Thursday night and Friday. It’s expected to move slowly over eastern South Carolina on Friday night through Saturday night.
What damage will it cause?
Heavy flooding is expected, with a storm surge up to 13ft (4 metres) in the area stretching from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Massive rainfall is predicted, with totals of 20-30in (50-76cm) in coastal areas of the Carolinas and up to 40in in isolated areas. “This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding,” the Hurricane Center said. Areas further from the coast could see 6-12in of rain.
How many people will it affect?
About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million more live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, according to the National Weather Service. More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, though it’s unclear how many actually left. Duke Energy, the leading power supplier in the area, said Florence could knock out electricity to 3 million of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and power outages could last for weeks.
What else is in its path?
Florence has sparked fears of an environmental disaster, because its path is lined with hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites, as well as six nuclear power plants. Also in the path is the town of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, near the site of the world’s first airplane flight and home tothe Wright Brothers national memorial.