An estimated million-and-a-half people have evacuated North and South Carolina as Hurricane Florence threatens the area with damaging winds, devastating storm surges, and cataclysmic flooding, Reuters is reporting.
The Category 4 storm, now 950 miles off the East Coast, is expected to make landfall on Friday, likely near the border of North Carolina and South Carolina. Once it lands, it will be catastrophic, says South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry. We want people to get out and get safe.”
Florence is, by far, the worst hurricane to threaten the Carolinas in three decades. The last major hurricane to strike the region was Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which killed 27 people.
So damaging is Florence expected to be that newspapers are running out of adjectives to describe it. Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters, via USA Today, says that Florence could become the “Harvey of the East Coast,” referencing 2017’s devastating storm which killed 68 people.
The main problem with Florence, says Weather Channel meteorologist Bryan Norcross, is that like Harvey, Florence is expected to stall once it makes landfall. That means that it will continually dump rain on the region – likely for 48 hours – rather than move inland and break apart.
“All indications are that the storm will slow down and just crawl or meander over the inland sections and the coastal Piedmont. We don’t know exactly where the center will go, but it’s not really relevant. It’s more like a (Hurricane) Harvey situation, where it’ll just slowly wind down.”
When all is said and done, that means Harvey could dump as much as 40 inches of rain on the region. That’s in addition to 120 MPH winds and storm surges of 12-16 feet, by some models.
Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, Florence may also have devastating environmental impacts on the region. As North Carolina is home to major producers of pork and poultry, the storm could stir up “lagoons” of pig and turkey manure. Similarly, a local energy utility has been cleaning up coal ash and other pollutants, but so far hasn’t finished the job. Florence could stir up all of that waste and release it from its containment areas, unleashing rivers of toxic sludge containing arsenic, chromium, and mercury.
All of these dire predictions are based on Florence remaining only a Category 4. It may very well strengthen into a Category 5 hurricane, reports Fox News.
University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd has a stern warning for anyone in the area.
“If you are given an evacuation order, please comply immediately.”