Hurricane Florence: ‘Catastrophic flooding’ forecast as life-threatening storm smashes into US

Surging waves could cover most of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of sea water, forecasters say

Harry Cockburn
Friday 14 September 2018 10:28 BST
Hurricane Florence flood on North Carolina coast in US

The outer edges of Hurricane Florence have begun to batter the south east US coast, bringing high winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surges which are forecast to cause “catastrophic flooding”.

Over 280,000 people are already without power and coastal streets have been inundated with water hours before the 400-mile wide hurricane makes landfall.

:: Hurricane Florence: Live updates

Authorities have warned the storm has the potential to “kill a lot of people”, and more than 1.7 million people living in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia were ordered to evacuate.

Petrol stations reported fuel shortages as people fled the affected states, while thousands are sheltering in emergency facilities.

Some areas of North Carolina are already under a foot of water as sea water has surged inland.

As wind speeds on land rise as the storm nears, the winds in the centre of the storm itself have slowed to around 90mph, lowering it from a Category 4 storm to a Category 1.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said: "The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come," he said. "Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience."

Mr Cooper requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called "historic major damage" across the state.

The forward movement of the storm increased slightly to 6mph, as of 2am local time (7am BST) and hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its centre, with tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.

A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves nearly 30 feet (9 metres) high as Florence churned towards the shore.

Forecasters have warned conditions would deteriorate as the storm makes landfall on Friday morning.

Surging waves could cover almost all areas of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 metres) of sea water, and as it slowly moves inland, days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 metres) of rain, causing severe freshwater flooding.

The hurricane is regarded as another major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which dealt with Hurricane Harvey last year which equalled 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as the costliest cyclone on record.

The agency was criticised as being slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year.

As Florence drew near, Donald Trump tweeted: “FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready. We are with you!”

But he also disputed the official conclusion nearly 3,000 people died after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, claiming - without providing any evidence in support - the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

AP contributed to this report

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