Hurricane Florence evacuations expand, with 'disaster at doorstep'

Myrtle Beach's Ocean Boulevard was practically empty at midday on Wednesday, September 12, as the SC town prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm smashes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and crawls slowly inland.

Tropical Storm Florence dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland on Saturday, knocking out power and causing at least eight deaths as flood waters that have devastated many communities kept rising.

After making landfall this Friday (Sept. 14), the massive storm will now "wobble" southward and then head west, making a "big, grand tour" of the southeastern United States, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) meteorologist Kevin Scasny said in a statement released today (Sept. 12).

Hurricane Florence is now generating waves up to 83 feet, almost double the height measured on Tuesday.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper gave residents a dire warning: "North Carolina, my message to you in clear".

By the time the storm leaves the region, forecasters expect it to drop 50 to 75 centimeters (19-30 inches) of rain in coastal areas, with some parts capable of receiving up to 100 centimeters (40 inches).

A state of emergency has been declared in 5 states including North and SC, as well as the capital, Washington D.C.

Up to 1.7 million people are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and coastal residents were frantically boarding up homes and businesses and hitting the road on Wednesday as the storm approached. The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".

An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

It's been an especially active start to the Atlantic hurricane season, as parts of North and SC are now bracing for impact from a major Category 3 Storm. It caused most of the 1,200 deaths in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday protecting lives is his "absolute highest priority".

The governor said those were "early warnings of the days to come".

William Manley, a spokesman for the Florida National Guard, said the National Guard will not deploy units to assist unless the affected states - the Carolinas in this case - request help. If it follows its most likely track, Florence will be the first major storm to make landfall so far north in the US.

"It doesn't matter how much money you have or how many generators you have if you can't get gas", she said. But barber Josh Dais says the island's 5,000 residents now are trying to decide whether to flee ahead of Hurricane Florence.

A hurricane warning is in effect for South Santee River, SC, north to Duck, NC, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.

"In 12 or 18 hours, they may be saying different things all over again", he said.

The shopping list for people who have made a decision to ride out the storm at home: plywood to board up their windows, sandbags, bilge pumps, generators, trash bags, potato chips, bottled water and wine.

"Someone's gonna get screwed on this", he said.

STORM SURGE: The combination of a risky storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly.

  • Carolyn Briggs