The hurricane that’s about to hit the Carolinas could be the worst in 60 years
- Hurricane Florence maintained Category 4 strength about 905 miles east south east of Cape Fear, North Carolina as of 11 a.m. ET Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.
- More than 1½ million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes along the coast.
- The damage Florence may cause could be notably greater than the devastating Hurricane Hazel in 1954, a hurricane historian says.
Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the midsection of the East Coast, expected to make landfall later this week with the most strength since Hurricane Hazel in 1954 – a storm which destroyed about 15,000 buildings as it maintained hurricane level winds as far inland as Raleigh, North Carolina.
More than 1½ million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes along the coast as government officials in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. declared states of emergency. Florence maintained Category 4 strength about 905 miles east south east of Cape Fear, North Carolina as of 11 a.m. ET Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour and is already 500 miles wide.
“Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday night,” the National Hurricane Center said.
The Center expects Florence to produce between 15 to 20 inches of total rainfall across portions of North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina until Saturday, with up to 30 inches closer to the center of the storm. Florence may also create “life-threatening flash flooding” and “damaging hurricane-force winds” the Center said.
Hurricane Hazel in 1954 registered winds of 150 miles per hour when it made landfall on the North Carolina coast. Jay Barnes, a hurricane historian and author, told AP that Hazel was “a benchmark storm in North Carolina’s history.” With evacuations already underway across the region, Barnes says the damage Florence may cause could be notably greater than Hazel’s impact.
“Today, we have thousands and thousands of permanent residents on our barrier beaches,” Barnes told AP. “It’s a totally different scenario with regard to human impact.”
Several companies are already taking steps to prepare for the storm. BMW is working to load vehicles at its Spartanburg, South Carolina plant on ships headed out to sea to avoid Florence’s path. Boeing will suspend operations at its Charleston, South Carolina location with 6,700 employees “so our employees can properly evacuate,” the company said.
The National Hurricane Center has issued a storm surge watch from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to the border of North Carolina and Virginia. Coastal areas may see waters surge by as much as 8 feet or more above ground if Florence’s peak surge coincides with a high tide.
“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” the Center said.
The Port of Virginia expects to remove ships overnight on Tuesday and plans to be completely empty by 6 a.m. ET Wednesday, a spokesperson told CNBC. The Port of Savannah in Georgia will remain open until further notice.