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14 September 2018, 07:18 | Ross Houston
Time nearly up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at southeast US
Hurricane Florence is making landfall in North Carolina, creeping ashore at 6 miles per hour - but bringing winds of 90 miles per hour, a massive storm surge, and a rain system that will soak much of the state and SC for days. Tens of thousands were without power. Heavy rainfall began after dark.
The storm's effects are predicted to make themselves felt throughout South and North Carolina starting Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 3.4 metres of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 90 centimetres of rain, touching off severe flooding.
Florence's winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) earlier in the week, and the hurricane was downgraded from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2. "Watch out, America!", the tween also warned, "this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".
And at Wayne Christian School in Goldsboro, NC near Fayetteville, students worship as the storm nears, singing, "Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm", as everyone prays for another downgrade of the storm's power. "Today the threat becomes a reality".
Life-threatening storm surge is being reported along the coast of the Carolinas. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.
"Even inland it's not just going to be a coastal event here, along rivers in the Greenville and Simpson area we could be talking about six up to potentially nine feet of storm surge, given how that high tide comes in with that storm".
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico previous year.
The storm surge from Hurricane Florence is potentially life-threatening, as water is beginning to pick up along some of the roadways.
Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
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Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
"The first bands are upon us", Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday evening. "Because it's Mother Nature".
One forecast from weather-tracking website Weathermodels.com predicts that over the next week, the Carolinas could see as much as 11 trillion gallons of rain. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
Maysie Baumgardner, 7, sheltered at the Hotel Ballast in downtown Wilmington with her family as the hurricane filled the streets with floodwaters.
Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm.
The worst may come as the gargantuan storm swirls past the shore and dumps days of rain on mountainous interiors, potentially creating disastrous mudslides.
Utility officials have warned that widespread power outages are likely and that it could take weeks to restore electricity. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storms aftermath, it said.
At 8 a.m., the center of Florence was 10 miles (15 kilometers) south of Wilmington. Hurricane-force winds extended 130 kilometres from its centre, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 315 kilometres.
There is little doubt that Hurricane Florence will be a significant storm as it approaches the coast the the Carolinas and Georgia.
"The primary fuel for hurricanes is a warm sea surface, which is getting warmer with climate change", said Dr Kelly McCusker, a climate scientist at the independent economic research firm Rhodium Group.
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