Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Carolina coast braces for 'Mike Tyson punch' from hurricane

Carolina coast braces for 'Mike Tyson punch' from hurricane

Hurricane Florence churned across the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday packing winds of 130 miles per hour (215 kph) as an emergency management official warned the monster storm would deliver a "Mike Tyson punch" to the Carolina coast.

People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways early Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.

More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the storm because of both destructive winds and a storm surge that could place normally dry land under at least 10 feet of water.

In addition to the hurricane-strength winds blowing ashore Friday, Florence has the potential to bring a storm surge upwards of 6 feet in parts of the coastline including up to 13 feet from Cape Fear north to Cape Lookout.

The National Weather Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and both the governors of North and SC have warned that the storm could be extremely risky and mandatory evacuations are underway in many parts of the Carolinas.

It was located 575 miles (925 kms) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving at 17 mph (28 kph) in a west-northwest direction.

The storm is expected to bring catastrophic flooding and rain - something that might not be music to the ears of North Carolina lawmakers who banned laws based on the science of sea levels.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Florence was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane, but it is expected to go back to a Category 4 by Thursday morning. Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland have declared states of emergency.

"If I need to evacuate I can go to my son's house", Sparks said as he carted a load of water bottles to his vehicle.

On a conference call with media, David Fountain, the Duke Energy North Carolina President, said they were using predictive modeling in historical data to make their estimates.

In Charleston, South Carolina, some residents were making preparations to leave Tuesday while others planned to ride out the storm.

"I do worry though about people here because many didn't prepare, you know, because originally they didn't think it was going to be so bad here", Sparks said.

All that water is worrisome for a region that just had a rainy season, meaning the soil there is fairly saturated and the rivers there are already high. "I was in the same house and it stood fine".

Forecast models show the storm slowing to a crawl off the North Carolina coast late on Thursday or Friday and make a southern turn.

"Disaster is at the doorstep and is coming in".

On Wednesday, we got an inside look at the planes at Lakeland Linder Airport.

In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate including from the Eastern Shore, another popular beachfront destination.

Florence is the most unsafe of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. The site lost enough material to fill around two-thirds of an Olympic-sized pool, the company said in a statement, adding that it did not believe the incident posed a risk to health or the environment.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic basin, Tropical Storm Isaac will strike the islands of the Lesser Antilles, with Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique under a tropical storm warning.

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