Tuesday, Sep 11, 2018, 5:47 am- Florence continued to roll toward the U.S. East Coast, poised to become the strongest hurricane in nearly 30 years to hit the Carolinas as more than 1 million people began fleeing a coastline that could see a 12-foot storm surge.
Then, as the high-pressure system steering Florence weakens, the hurricane is expected to hang out inland for days, showering the region with rain much like Hurricane Harvey did to Houston previous year.
Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an evacuation order for SC as the area prepares for Hurricane Florence's possible landfall.
The governor of neighboring North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination, and parts of coastal Dare County, while a state of emergency was declared in Virginia. It's forecasted to hit the Carolinas on Thursday and Friday.
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 unsafe weather across a wide area.
The entire SC coast is now under a mandatory evacuation order beginning at noon tomorrow.
Perhaps the worst-case scenario for flight schedules is if Florence stalls after moving on shore while blocking the busy flight routes along the Atlantic coast.
The National Hurricane Center upgraded Florence twice Monday, saying the storm will continue to strengthen as it targets the Carolinas later this week.
"We are not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina", McMaster said.
A supervisor at the North Carolina emergency management office was welcoming workers back and telling them to prepare for a long week.
Isaac, which the NHC called a small hurricane, was about 1,090 miles east of the Lesser Antilles - a region still recovering from last year's powerful Hurricane Maria - with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.
High-definition video from space shows the extreme power of Hurricane Florence
The storm's forward motion has slowed 11km/h since Wednesday (local time), which was predicted as the storm nears the coast. Ten years ago today, Hurricane Ike made landfall as "only" a Category 2 hurricane along Galveston Island near Houston.
The National Hurricane Center announced Florence was increased to a Category 4 hurricane Monday morning, with a projected path toward the Carolinas.
The storm was moving west-northwest at around 15km/h, and was forecast to drench a large swath of the US East Coast running from northern Florida to New Jersey.
Storm surge and hurricane watches may be issued early Tuesday for portions of southeastern U.S. states, the NHC said.
NHC forecaster Chuck Caracozza notes it's not unusual to track three or more storms this time of year.
Flaherty, who is also a meteorologist, said the storm is "life-threatening".
Should Florence make landfall as a Category 4, it would be the first Category 4 hurricane since Hazel in 1954 to hit North Carolina.
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.
"Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you", Gerst said.
Name SearchWatch Service' Tom Roberts said he sold 150 gas cans in two hours Monday, along with generators, plywood, rope, manual can openers, sand bags and a plethora of other items. Tropical storm force winds could be felt in Charlotte from this system.
A Category 4 hurricane can cause catastrophic damage, the hurricane center warned: "Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls", the hurricane center said.