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14 September 2018, 06:04 | Ross Houston
Classified as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Florence was the most severe storm to threaten the USA mainland this year and the first of its magnitude to target the Carolinas since 1989, when Hurricane Hugo barreled over Charleston, South Carolina.
"Florence has rapidly intensified into an extremely unsafe hurricane", Blake wrote Monday evening, predicting that the hurricane's top sustained winds would approach the 157 miles per hour (253 kph) threshold for a wost-case Category 5 scenario.
The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia have declared emergencies. Schools in 26 of the state's 46 counties were to close from Tuesday.
Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an evacuation order for SC as the area prepares for Hurricane Florence's possible landfall.
Its centre will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Centre said.
A hurricane's numerical classification tends to dominate the headlines, but it tells only part of the story - it rates a storm's wind speeds - and not necessarily the most life-threatening part.
Hurricane watches and storm surge watches are expected to be issued Tuesday morning ahead of the arrival of Florence. Here are all 11 years on record that the Atlantic has hosted three or more named storms: 1893, 1926, 1950, 1961, 1967, 1980, 1995, 1998, 2010, 2017, and 2018.
"Strong high pressure to the north is likely to enhance winds farther north along the coast than what would normally occur", Sosnowski said.
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As of 12pm EST, the storm was centered approximately 1,230 miles from Cape Fear, North Carolina. "The threat will be inland, so I'm afraid, based on my experience at FEMA, that the public probably not as prepared as everybody would like", said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Wind gusts topping 100 miles per hour are likely near and just north of where Florence approaches the coast. "Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed". Electricity and power can go out for days.
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.
There are mandatory evacuations set for Virginia, too, where Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered about 245,000 people in flood-prone coastal areas to get out beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
"Team South Carolina is moving into position.to facilitate the evacuation, but are also positioning to do post-storm activities", said Maj.
Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 60 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 175 miles from the center of the storm. It's now at a Category 4. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., says climate change also affects another feature of Florence - it's enormous.
Some strengthening is expected during the next 36 hours, and Florence is expected to be an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1, but cooler water and higher wind shear - winds moving at different speeds and directions - early in the season are less than ideal for tropical systems to gain and maintain strength.
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