Hurricane Florence Hits Category 4

Hurricane Florence is rapidly intensifying on its path toward the East Coast and is now a Category 4 with 130 mph winds, the National Hurricane Center said in a special update. Florence is expected to strengthen to 150 mph just before landfall somewhere on the southeast or Mid-Atlantic coast Thursday night and could possibly have 18-20′ water swells.

Computer model forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern South Carolina and North Carolina’s Outer Banks, although shifts in the track are possible, and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs. Given the uncertainty and time it takes to evacuate, officials in North Carolina have issued mandatory evacuation orders for Dade County and Hatteras Island.

Where Florence turns northward around the western periphery of that high-pressure system will determine what part of the coastline experiences the worst wind and storm-surge impacts typically near the eye.

The National Hurricane Center is forecasting Florence to be a major hurricane (Category 3 or 4) when it arrives at the Southeast coast Thursday. Florence may become only the fourth Category 4 hurricane to make landfall along the U.S. East Coast north of Georgia, joining Hugo (1989), Gracie (1959) and Hazel (1954), according to the historical database.

Here is what we know right now about Florence’s track timing. All of this is subject to change in the days ahead, so check back for updates.

Timing: The peak coastal impacts from Florence are expected Thursday and Thursday night. Tropical storm-force winds may arrive as soon as Wednesday night, but most certainly by Thursday morning along the Southeast coast in the general area of the forecast path. Impacts from Florence, particularly heavy rain, may continue into next weekend or early next week, if it stalls out for a time, as suggested by forecast guidance.

Locations Potentially Affected: Areas from the Carolina’s to Virginia are at greatest risk for major impacts from Florence. Locations farther south, such as Georgia and farther north into the mid-Atlantic should also monitor Florence for any forecast changes.

Potential U.S. Impacts

We cannot pinpoint exact locations that will see the worst impacts from storm surge, wind and rainfall flooding. However, some potential impacts are coming into a bit more focus.

Storm Surge Impact: A destructive storm surge will accompany the eye coming ashore Thursday. It will be highest to the north or northeast of where the center comes ashore. Large, battering waves will ride atop this surge. All evacuation orders from local officials should be followed because of this dangerous threat. Significant beach erosion is also likely on the southeastern U.S. coast.

With each passing flight into the eye of the storm and every new computer model forecast, it has become increasingly unlikely that Florence will turn out to sea and spare the Eastern Seaboard from potentially devastating storm surge, flooding and wind. There’s even some indication that the hurricane will slow or stall out over the Mid-Atlantic later this week, which could lead to a disastrous amount of rain.

  • Florence has rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane.
  • A strike on the U.S. East Coast is now likely Thursday.
  • Life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds are expected.
  • Massive inland rainfall flooding is also expected from Florence lingering into next week.
  • Tropical storm force winds may arrive as soon as Wednesday night.
  • Florence is also generating dangerous surf and rip currents along the East Coast.

Hurricane Florence has rapidly intensified into a Category 4 major hurricane southeast of Bermuda and is likely to lash the East Coast later this week with life-threatening storm surge, destructive winds and massive inland rainfall flooding in one of the strongest strikes on this part of the East Coast on record.

If you’re in the East Coast threat zone, the time is now to develop or firm up your hurricane preparedness plan and be ready to implement it if necessary. Residents in coastal areas should follow evacuation orders from local officials because of the potential for life-threatening storm surge flooding.

Wind Impact: Numerous downed trees and long-lasting power outages could occur near and inland from where the center of Florence strikes. This threat of tree damage and power outages may also extend across Florence’s larger swath of tropical-storm-force winds. Structural damage to homes and buildings is possible, particularly where the core of any hurricane-force winds moves through.


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Emerson J. Parker

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