Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

'Time running out' for residents to escape Hurricane Florence

'Time running out' for residents to escape Hurricane Florence

Beach communities in North and SC emptied out on Wednesday as Hurricane Florence threatened to unleash pounding surf and potentially deadly flooding as the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on the states in decades.

Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140mph to 110mph which reduced the hurricane's power from Category 4 to Category 2.

The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

"These are folks who made a decision to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", she said.

Coastal North Carolina may receive up to 40 inches (100 centimeters) of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.

It is unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in the southern USA state on Wednesday ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

A view of Hurricane Florence is shown churning in the Atlantic Ocean in a west, north-westerly direction heading for the eastern coastline of the United States, taken by cameras outside the International Space Station.

Then, it will probably hover along the coast on Saturday, pushing up to 13ft of storm surge and dumping 20 to 30 inches of rain on both states, before heading over the Appalachian Mountains.

Parts of North and SC were forecast to get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 metre). Florence is a powerful category 4 hurricane and is expected to gain even more strength later in the day.

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Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave.

President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, which frees up the way for federal aid.

Florence is the most risky of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.

The NHC said Helene was weakening, however, and posed no danger to land.

"Where else can we go?" she said.

The storm's centre is expected to slow when it reaches inland, meaning it could rain for days in places and some areas could see three feet of rain.

Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm.

Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.

"It brings multiple threats, including a massive storm surge at the coast, as well as a potentially catastrophic inland flood situation".

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that Fema and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

"Just because we have a landfall to your south, that doesn't mean you're out of the woods, because the winds are huge around this system", NHC Director Ken Graham said, pointing out the wide risk of flooding.

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