This enhanced satellite image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence, third from right, in the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. At right is Tropical Storm Helene, and second from right is Tropical Storm Isaac. (NOAA via AP)

Hurricane Florence reaches Category 4, could strike U.S. southeast

It’s too early to know the exact path, but forecasters said Florence could blow ashore in the Carolinas by Thursday.

Florence rapidly strengthened into a major hurricane on Monday, reaching Category 4 strength as it closes in on North and South Carolina,.

The first impacts were already being seen on North Carolina’s barrier islands Monday as dangerous rip currents and seawater flowed over the state highway. People were told to prepare to evacuate communities up and down a stretch of coastline already identified as particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.

Related: Big Island feels the effects of approaching Hurricane Lane

Related: B.C. woman shares experience of riding out Hawaii hurricane

For many, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could carry torrential rains up into the Appalachian mountains, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous weather across a wide area.

“Florence is quickly becoming a powerful hurricane,” hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote.

A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 85 degrees (30 Celsius), Blake wrote. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence’s hurricane wind field was expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats, and raising the likelihood of life-threatening freshwater flooding.

“The bottom line is that there is increasing confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity,” Blake said.

By 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, Florence had top sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph). It was centred about 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometres) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph (20 kph). Its centre will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricanes Isaac, which could hit Caribbean islands, and Helene, much farther out to sea, lined up behind Florence as the 2018 Atlantic season reached its peak.

The governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also suspended his campaign and asked President Donald Trump for a federal emergency declaration.

Navy ships off Virginia’s coast were preparing to sail out of the path, a North Carolina university has already cancelled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies.

Red flags have already been flying on beaches, warning swimmers to stay out of the water as seas began kicking up. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes, fill sandbags and secure their homes.

“Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. The state’s emergency management agency said it is “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Chilliwack toy drive brings in gifts, money to Ann Davis Transition Society

People dropped by Superstore to donate toys and more for those in need this holiday season

Chilliwack RCMP find chemicals and cannabis extract in illicit lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Chilliwack RCMP seek suspects in rash of poppy donation box thefts

Incidents at four different locations in Sardis in the days leading up to Remembrance Day

German-born British Columbian warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Train ride at Minter store not part of this year’s festive fun

Tough decision made to stop seasonal train in its tracks after injury suffered by Brian Minter

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

1 woman dead, man in hospital after ‘suspicious’ crash: police

Homicide investigators and Burnaby RCMP are investigating the fatal collision

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

Most Read