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14 September 2018, 01:27 | Edward Lowe
Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), warned the danger was not only along the coast: "Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", he said.
With winds picking up along the coastline early Thursday, federal and state officials had issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the "once in a lifetime" weather system. The damage from the storm is also cumulative over time, as it slowly moves inland, damaging homes and buildings, blowing trees over, and knocking down power lines.
"The first bands are upon us", Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday evening.
Sixteen kilometres away in the city of Wilmington, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.
"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", said Linda Smith, 67, a retired nonprofit director.
As Florence churned slowly towards the coasts of North and SC as a Category 2 hurricane, federal and state officials issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the "once in a lifetime" weather system. "We just want prayers from everyone". Flooding from rain and rising rivers also was reported in New Bern.
The National Hurricane Centerforecasts that it could be centered over southwestern Pennsylvania by early Tuesday morning, potentially bringing more rain to Maryland and another surge of floodwaters down an already swollen Susquehanna River.
Forecasters' European climate model is predicting 2 trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com. "The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact - and we have that". Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
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 a year ago.
"We expected it to strengthen and then as it approached the coast to weaken somewhat", Abrams says. "I've never been one to leave for a storm but this one kind of had me spooked".
Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
Evacuations in United States ahead of Hurricane Florence
There was also concern over crops. "It's going to be bad", said Woody White, chairman of the New Hanover County Commissioners. At least 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia have been warned to evacuate, and others are hunkering down.
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