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14 September 2018, 04:47 | Edward Lowe
Winds and waves began battering the Carolinas on Thursday (Sep 13) as officials warned that Hurricane Florence - while weakening slightly - remains a "very risky storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the US East Coast.
That mix of impressions - a respect for this storm's sheer size and the massive amount of rain and seawater it brings, along with a resignation to storms being part of life on the coast - is also part of the reaction in low-lying areas to the north.
Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.
The Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads was closed Wednesday but planned to reopen Thursday on news that Florence had veered south. This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.
The hurricane is exposing other chinks in the supply chain, as many retailers big and small are running low on storm-prep essentials, from batteries, generators and plywood to bread and bottled water. Both North Carolina and SC are updating their lists of emergency shelters for people caught by the storm.
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"Regardless of development, heavy rainfall and gusty winds are expected across portions of northeastern Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana on Friday and Saturday", the hurricane center said.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia.
The outer bands of scattered rain reached the Triangle early Thursday afternoon, but the center of Hurricane Florence was still 100 miles off shore, southeast of Wilmington, at 5 p.m., according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tobacco plants are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes because high-speed winds can tear leaves and heavy rainfalls can drown the plants.
In addition, the threat of storm surges looms for areas in the path of the storm, meaning life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland is possible in the next 36 hours. "The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline".
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The full impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.
"The traffic control points or lane reversals are still in effect", said Joseph Hill, police chief in Horry County, S.C., at a news conference Wednesday in Myrtle Beach.
Local meteorologists were already looking ahead to next week, when the remnants of Florence, by then expected to be a tropical or post-tropical depression, could move into the Mid-Atlantic.
Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast. North Carolina alone could get from 20 to 30 inches, with isolated spots possibly receiving 40 inches. From southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC - expect rainfall amounts of 20 to 30 inches, isolated 40 inches.
Subtropical Storm Joyce, which formed in the North Atlantic Tuesday, is also not expected to hit the U.S. It is forecast to become a tropical storm in the next day or so while drifting to the southwest.
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While, of course, this is a good thing, by no means should anyone down in the Carolinas feel that they are out of the woods. Hurricane force winds (74 mph+) will reach the coastline by this evening and continue to batter the area all day Friday .