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Hurricane Florence: Eyewall ramps up, life-threatening surge

The Weather Network logo The Weather Network 2018-09-14 The Weather Network

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Hurricane Florence is swamping the Carolinas with rain, wind and rising floodwaters as the massive storm crawls along the coast, threatening millions of people with record rainfall and punishing surf. A gauge on the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina was already recording 10 FEET of inundation early Friday.

Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale on Thursday evening with a slow westward motion expected as the centre moves across southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern South Carolina on Friday and Saturday.

"Do not focus on the wind speed category of Hurricane Florence! Life-threatening storm surge flooding, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are still expected," warns the U.S. National Hurricane Center, adding that North Carolina would see the equivalent of up to eight months of rain in a two to three day period.

Florence will move generally northward across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week. More on what's ahead for Hurricane Florence, and the three other named storms in the Atlantic, below.

TROPICAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • Hurricane Florence causing life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds as it makes landfall in North Caroline
  • Catastrophic freshwater flooding expected over portions of North and South Carolina
  • 1 million+ under mandatory evacuation orders in North, South Carolina

WATCH BELOW: FLORENCE LANDFALL, EYEWALL COMES ON SHORE

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Florence won't be the first hurricane to slam into the Carolinas with devastating effect, but there are very real reasons to be concerned that this storm will pen its name in the record books along side the likes of Hurricane Hugo and Hurricane Floyd.

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WATCH BELOW: THE PEOPLE WHO ARE STAYING BEHIND

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FORECAST

Hurricane Florence will approach North Carolina early in the morning hours of Friday, making landfall in southern North Carolina near Wilmington, likely as a Category 2 storm, slowing down then drifting inland and south through the weekend.

Dangerous rip currents and powerful waves will grow even larger on Thursday, with the outer bands spiraling around Florence reaching land, giving periods of rain and the additional threat for coastal tornadoes and waterspouts as they pivot onshore.

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Tropical storm-force winds (sustained winds from 63-118 km/h) will spread inland through the day, with hurricane conditions expected to arrive by Friday, with winds speeds over 119 km/h.

Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo, and Bay Rivers are forecast to experience 9-13 feet of storm surge Friday. North Myrtle Beach to Cape Fear and Cape Lookout to Ocracoke Inlet with 6-9 feet of storm surge.

WATCH BELOW: CATASTROPHIC STORM SURGE POSSIBLE

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Florence, beyond Friday, will rake the coastline with pounding surf, constant wind and torrential rain. Flooding rain will continue through the weekend, with tremendous amounts of rainfall forecast for the southern and central Appalachians into next week.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES WITH FLORENCE

The Size and Past Intensity

Throughout its colourful and lengthy past, Florence churned the sea to staggering heights after reaching a Category 4 storm... twice. It's known that with large and long-lived storms, waves are given the time to strengthen and build around the storm, meaning rip currents and pounding surf can and will be felt over thousands of kilometres away from Florence all along the eastern seaboard and into the Caribbean. Dangerous and life-threatening storm surge will rush into the coastline and barrier islands of North and South Carolina, particularly between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout, peaking on Friday.

Landfall will be bad -- but the impacts will reach much further

Despite Florence's weakening, the hurricane continues to grow and expand. From edge to edge, the storm spans over 1,400 kilometres, with hurricane-force winds extending 130 kilometres to either side of the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extending more than 315 km to either side. In other words, Florence is twice the size of the Carolina coast. Hurricane conditions will spread far inland on Friday as the hurricane makes landfall. Luckily, catastrophic wind damage is no longer expected along the coastline as the hurricane's wind speeds won't be reflective of a Category 4 or 5 storm. But the wind damage from a hurricane is simply one facet of a storm and there are greater concerns ahead.

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The potential for devastating inland flooding is high

Contrary to what you might expect, it's not the winds that are the deadliest with hurricanes, it's the flooding. And the inland and river flooding with Florence could reach truly historic levels as the storm stays the course over the weekend and into next week. When even conservative estimates for rainfall with a storm run at more than 300 mm, you know you're in for a rough time.

Official amounts are forecast to vary from 20-30 inches for coasts of The Carolinas, with localized amounts exceeding 40 inches. That's over a meter -- or close to 3.5 feet -- of rain.

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WATCH BELOW ACTIVE ATLANTIC: THERE ARE FOUR NAMED STORMS

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With most of the immediate attention going to Florence, we can't lose sight of Helene, Isaac, Joyce and the potential for a system in the Gulf of Mexico. In total, there are 4 named storms in the Atlantic, something that has not happened simultaneously in 10 years.

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While Hurricane Helene and Joyce will remain well out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Isaac charged through the Lesser Antilles on Thursday, tracking toward Central America parallel to the northern coast of South America. Forecasters are also watching for the potential development of another system in the Gulf of Mexico to become a tropical depression, which would bring heavy rain to Texas over the weekend.

Stay with us here at The Weather Network as we track the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.

MUST SEE: LOOKING FLORENCE 'IN THE EYE' AS IT APPROACHES THE COAST

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