Florence’s top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph) as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early Thursday, reducing the storm from Category 4 to Category 2, but forecasters warned that the enormous wind field has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land.
An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory, according to the US Weather Prediction Center.
Officers in New Hanover Country, Wilmington, North Carolina, stockpiled enough food and water for 60,000 people for four days, along with more than 28,000 emergency tarpaulin shelters.
More than 10 million people are in the crosshairs of Hurricane Florence as storm force winds move within hours of battering the USA east coast.
SATURDAY: The southward motion of the storm after it makes landfall will likely leave the D.C. region with mostly clear skies on Saturday. Executives in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia declared emergencies earlier in the week. “I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas”. The highest surge is forecast from the Cape Fear to Cape Lookout where the surge could be as high as 9 to 12 feet above ground level. Hurricane Helene is veering toward Europe and newly formed Subtropical Storm Joyce is not expected to threaten land. Florence is now heading for ocean water with surface temperatures of around 85 degrees, meaning it will likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast. The governor added that a million or more people could be evacuated before the storm makes landfall.
Satellite images show the storm has maintained a distinct eye and is well organized.
Florence’s nighttime winds were down to 115 miles per hour (185 kph) from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), and the Category 4 storm fell to a Category 3, with a further slow weakening expected as the storm nears the coast. SC has also canceled classes through at least Saturday due to the storm.
Florence became a unsafe Category 3 hurricane Wednesday afternoon before it downgraded to a Category 2 Wednesday night with winds at 110mph.
Forecasters said Florence was expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and dump 0.3 to 0.6 meters of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
Elder relatives carry as much weight as meteorologists in a tight-knit community of slave descendants on the SC coast.
“This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding”, the hurricane center says.