Over a million ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Florence heads for SC, NC and VA

Astronaut Ricky Arnold, from aboard the International Space Station, shared this image of Hurricane Florence on Sept. 10, taken as the orbiting laboratory flew over the massive storm. Courtesy NASA.gov.

According to several news reports, one out of every five South Carolinians, (about 1 million) are in evacuation zones

Hurricane Florence is on a current trajectory for the Carolinas and Virginia and with current wind speeds of about 140 mph, the storm is currently a Category 4. There are mandatory evacuation orders for statewide coastal areas in South Carolina and currently over 1 million people are leaving their homes.

According to several news reports, one out of every five South Carolinians, (about 1 million people) are in evacuation zones. The South Carolina governor, Henry McMaster said of the order, “We are not going to gamble with the lives of the people.” Other evacuations include the Outer Banks in North Carolina and parts of coastal Virginia.

Though Hurricane Florence is currently a Category 4, forecasters are warning that Florence could potentially become a Category 5 with winds up to 155 miles per hour.

The National Hurricane Center warned Monday, “Florence has rapidly intensified into an extremely dangerous hurricane. All interests from South Carolina into the mid-Atlantic region should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials.”

Brian McNoldy, a University of Miami atmospheric scientist has warned that though the Carolinas and Virginia are not strangers to hurricanes, this is the potentially most powerful storm to hit this part of the east coast. “North Carolina has never experienced a Category 4 or 5 hurricane landfall, and only three Category 3 landfalls on record. Events such as this are infrequent — testing people, structures, vegetation, resources, and plans.”

The National Hurricane Center Report

The National Hurricane Center is reporting that the worst impacts felt by the storm are going to be coastal areas that could be affected by storm surges, literal walls of water that are pushed onshore to creating dangerous flooding.

They have issued the following informational key points related to Hurricane Florence:

  1. A life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the coastlines of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and a Storm Surge Watch will likely be issued for some of these areas by Tuesday morning. All interests from South Carolina into the mid- Atlantic region should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials.
  2. Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.
  3. Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina, and a Hurricane Watch will likely be issued by Tuesday morning. Damaging winds could also spread well inland into portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.
  4. Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast will continue this week, resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents.

Though the exact route is not known, the National Hurricane Center has issued the following probable path and potential arrival times of tropical-storm force winds.

Hurricane Florence is potentially going to be a Category 5 based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed.

According to the National Hurricane Center, this scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventative measures. In the western North Pacific, the term "super typhoon" is used for tropical cyclones with sustained winds exceeding 150 mph.

Category 1
Sustained Winds 74-95 mph
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.

Category 2
Sustained Winds 96-110 mph
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.

Category 3 (Major)
Sustained Winds 111-129 mph
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.

Category 4 (Major)
Sustained Winds 130-156 mph
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Category 5 (Major)
Sustained Winds 157 mph or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur:A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

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