Hurricane Florence: More than 1m people ordered to evacuate as storm moves toward Carolinas

'It's an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane,' North Carolina governor says

Emily Shugerman
New York
Tuesday 11 September 2018 22:18 BST
Hurricane Florence gains momentum in the Pacific Ocean

More than one million people have been ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Florence bears down on the east coast of the United States.

The category four hurricane is expected to strike coastal North and South Carolina on Thursday, potentially bringing 130 mph winds and up to 30 inches of rain in some areas.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state’s barrier islands on Tuesday – the state’s first evacuation order in recent memory. Some localities had already issued their own warnings, but Mr Cooper said he wanted to provide an “added incentive” for people to get out.

“This storm is a monster,” he said at a news conference. “It’s an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane.”

The governors of South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia also issued evacuation orders for some areas, with South Carolina governor Henry McMaster saying his state was playing a “very deadly and important game of chess with Hurricane Florence”.

Boeing and Volvo both shut down their South Carolina factories, according to the Washington Post, while Virginia evacuated some 1,000 prisoners from its Indian Creek Correctional Centre.

Scientists flying into Hurricane Florence

The mayor of Washington DC also declared a state of emergency, cancelling several public events and urging residents to stock up on groceries. Officials said the potential for flash floods and downed power lines were the greatest threat to the nation’s capital.

Just half a mile away, President Donald Trump signed declarations of emergency for both North and South Carolina on Tuesday. He also cancelled campaign events in Missouri and Mississippi scheduled for later in the week, and attended a meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).

“We’re as ready as anybody has ever been,” Mr Trump said at the meeting with emergency officials, noting that the storm would be “tremendously big and tremendously wet - tremendous amount of water”.

“The safety of the American people is my absolute highest priority,” he added. “We are sparing no expense.”

Fema administrator Brock Long is warning that the hurricane will be a “devastating event” and is urging citizens to evacuate if they have been asked to leave their homes. He says electric power could be out for weeks.

Hurricane Florence was located about 905 miles (1,455 km) off the coast of North Carolina on Tuesday morning. It was expected to move between Bermuda and the Bahamas before reaching the US later in the week, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC).

Forecasters said the storm’s hurricane-force winds extended up to 60 miles (95 km) from the centre, and were expected to bring “large and destructive waves” to offshore areas. The NHC warned of possibly life-threatening storm surges on much of the coastal Carolinas.

The biggest threat for many, however, was the rain. The NHC predicted 15 to 20 inches of rainfall in portions of the Carolinas and the mid-Atlantic over the next week, with a maximum of 30 inches in some areas. But another, trusted computer model – the European simulation – predicted more than 45 inches of rain in some areas, drawing comparison to last year’s Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey dumped up to 5 feet of water in some areas of Texas last summer, where the slow-moving storm caused an estimated $125bn in damages. Forecasters are worried that Florence could cause similar chaos if it, too, stalled over the mainland later this week.

“This will be a storm that creates and causes massive damage to our country,” Jeff Byard, Fema’s associate administrator, told CNN. “It is going to be a long-term recovery. This is not going to be a storm that we recover from in days.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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