Florence is poised to become the strongest hurricane in almost 30 years to hit the Carolinas, as more than one million people began fleeing the American coastline, Bloomberg reports.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks are under mandatory evacuation orders and four states declared emergencies as the Category 4 storm barreled toward the coast. Already estimated to bring as much as $27 billion in damages, Florence is aiming for landfall late Thursday or early Friday somewhere between Charleston, South Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia.
Hurricane and storm surge watches were issued for sections of the coastlines of North Carolina and South Carolina with a storm surge expected to reach as much as 12 feet above ground in some areas. If it comes ashore in the region, the hurricane will be the most powerful storm since Hugo slammed into South Carolina in 1989.
According to Chip Konrad, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southeast Regional Climate Center and an assistant professor of geography at the University of North Carolina, Florence’s historic winds are a “huge threat” to the region, especially in areas that lie further inland where trees and infrastructure are less accustomed to violent gusts, The Atlantic reports.
“Florence is going to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane. It will bring extreme wind damage and surge damage,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The NHC on Tuesday warned of a “life-threatening storm surge,” and “damaging hurricane-force winds” along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, Business Insider adds.
It also said that “life-threatening freshwater flooding” and “a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event” could take place in those states and move further inland for hundreds of miles.
A buoy from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration located about 80 nautical miles north of the eye of the storm reported tropical-storm-force winds over several hours on early Tuesday morning, and sea levels as high as 23 feet.