U.S. east coast braced for Florence
September 11, 2018 -- Hurricane Florence is rapidly intensifying on its path toward the U.S. east coast, the most powerful storm to menace the region in 30 years.
Carrying winds of up to 140 mph (220 kph) as a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Florence is expected to strengthen and become a Category 5 storm Tuesday. It's then forecast to close in on North or South Carolina on Thursday, hitting a stretch of coastline that's vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.
South Carolina's governor ordered the state's entire coastline to be evacuated and predicted that 1 million people would flee. And Virginia's governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas, while some coastal counties in North Carolina have done the same.
For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous conditions.
The storm's potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.
Airlines, including American and Southwest, have started letting passengers change travel plans that take them into the hurricane's possible path.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore. People living well inland should prepare to lose power and endure flooding and other hazards, he warned.
Since reliable record-keeping began more than 150 years ago, North Carolina has been hit by only one Category 4 hurricane: Hazel, with 130 mph winds, in 1954.