Florence Expected To Bring Heavy Rainfall; South Carolina To Evacuate Coastal Counties

Sep 9, 2018

Updated: 5:45 p.m.

National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham says when Florence comes ashore and slows down, more problems are expected inland with heavy rainfall and high winds.

"That means saturated soil, high winds, trees, power lines, loss of power is going to be a big issue when this thing makes landfall and sits there basically for a few days," Graham said.

The center is warning of heavy, prolonged rainfall over the next seven days.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district has rescheduled all of its varsity football games to avoid Florence.

CMS says home games originally scheduled for Friday will be played on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

In South Carolina, Interstates 26 and 526, between Charleston and Columbia, will be closed going in the direction of the coast Tuesday, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The departments will implement a full four-lane reversal. There will also be reversals in place on Highway 501 near the coast.

Duke Energy expects "widespread damage" from Florence and says post-storm repairs could take weeks — based on past storms. The company says the storm's size and strength suggest it could cause more damage than Matthew in 2016.   

The company says it's moving power crews to the Carolinas from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Florida so they'll be ready to begin restoring power as soon as possible.

Updated: 5 p.m.

Hurricane Florence is getting stronger and larger, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The Category 4 hurricane now has maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and is moving at 13 miles per hour toward the coasts of North and South Carolina. 

According to the center, the forecast track has the center of Florence moving over the Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday before approaching the Carolinas on Thursday.

Updated: 3 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of the state's coastal counties in preparation for Hurricane Florence.

The order will take effect at noon on Tuesday. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division says it's planning for a large-scale evacuation.

"This may be inconvenient. This is a very dangerous hurricane. But we are not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina, not a one," McMaster said.

McMaster says the evacuation is expected to affect about 1 million people.  Inbound lanes also will be reversed on four main routes to the coast, to allow people to leave, says McMaster.

Updated: 2 p.m.

The Charlotte Fire Department and emergency preparedness officials are urging residents to prepare now for the possibility of trouble from Hurricane Florence. CFD spokesman Rob Cannon and Hannah Panicco of CFD Emergency Preparedness talked to reporters this afternoon and urged everyone to stock up on supplies ahead of possible power outages and to check neighborhood storm drains to make sure they're clear for possible heavy rain.

Updated: 12:15 p.m. 

Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and is now a Category 4 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In a press conference 11 a.m. Monday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Florence will be a threat statewide, not just at the coast. He’s urging residents to prepare for the severe weather.

“We here in North Carolina are bracing for a hard hit,” Cooper added. “Let me be clear: North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously and you should too.”

Cooper and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster have both declared states of emergency, and both asked federal officials for disaster declarations, which would free up new resources for responding to the storm. 

Cooper said 200 state National Guard troops have been activated, and thousands more are standing by for the call. Emergency preparedness officials have begun moving equipment into position around the state — a task he said is made more difficult by the knowledge that the storm could have effects statewide. 

Coastal evacuations have already been ordered in some coastal areas of North Carolina. Cooper said officials are consulting updated flooding models to prepare for possible inland evacuations along the Neuse, Lumber and Tar Rivers in the eastern part of the state. 

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered on Hatteras Island and the southern Outer Banks. Officials have ordered evacuations beginning Tuesday morning for residents and visitors of Dare County, including such popular tourist spots as Kitty Hawk and Nags Head. 

More briefings by public officials are planned Monday afternoon.  Charlotte officials will speak about hurricane preparation at 2 p.m.  South Carolina Gov. McMaster is also scheduled to give a briefing at 2:30 p.m.

On Sunday, McMaster urged South Carolina residents to prepare individually. He noted that with winds projected to reach more than 140 miles an hour, the storm would be more powerful than Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which left a path of devastation from South Carolina's coast northwest to Charlotte. 

Updated: 11:30 a.m.

Florence has strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

In a press conference, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is calling the hurricane a major statewide threat.

"The forecast places North Carolina in the bullseye of Hurricane Florence, and the storm is rapidly getting strong," Cooper said. "When weather forecasters tell us it's life-threatening, we know that it is serious."

Cooper said North Carolina faces three threats from Florence: an ocean surge along the coast, strong winds higher than other hurricanes recently experienced and inland flooding from heavy rains.

“We here in North Carolina are bracing for a hard hit,” Cooper added. “Let me be clear: North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously and you should too.”

Updated: 8 a.m. 

Florence has intensified to a Category 2 hurricane, according to the National Weather Service, and is expected to reach major hurricane status later today.

In the western Carolinas and Georgia, the National Weather Service says rain and wind from the system will impact the area as early as Thursday and continue through the weekend. The hurricane is likely to bring dangerous surf and rip currents along the east coast. 

Although the path of the Hurricane remains unclear, the center is warning people to “closely monitor the progress of Florence, ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials.”

The governors of both North and South Carolina have declared states of emergency.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Friday and waived transportation rules to help farmers harvest and transfer more crops quickly ahead of the storm.

“While it’s still too early to know the storm’s path, we know we have to be prepared,” Gov. Cooper said. “During harvest, time is of the essence. Action today can avoid losses due to Florence.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also declared a state of emergency Saturday and temporarily suspended regulations for vehicles transporting supplies and utilities – like gas, electricity and medical supplies, among others.  

“With this order government agencies will begin to mobilize in anticipation of a hurricane,” McMaster said. “Now is the time for your family also to prepare and stay tuned for more updates.”

The National Hurricane Center also warned that Florence could cause life-threatening surf and rip currents along the East Coast, from Florida to North Carolina.