Hurricane Florence: Life-threatening storm lands in North Carolina

Media captionHomes have been evacuated ahead of Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence has made landfall on the US East Coast, bringing with it winds, heavy rains and warnings of “catastrophic” floods.

The centre of the storm struck Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, with gales of up to 90mph (150 km/h).

Its outer bands have already inundated coastal areas. Scores of people are currently waiting to be rescued in the city of New Bern.

Evacuation warnings are in place for more than a million people.

Nearly half a million power outages have been reported across North Carolina, according to the state’s emergency management agency.

The governor of North Carolina said surviving the storm would be a test of “endurance, teamwork, common sense, and patience”.

“This is an uninvited brute that just won’t leave,” Roy Cooper told NBC on Friday.

National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear said North Carolina is likely to see eight months’ worth of rain in two to three days.

Thousands of miles away meanwhile a huge typhoon is moving towards the Philippines. More than five million people are in the path of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, officials say.

What are the dangers?

Conditions deteriorated throughout Thursday. Some areas of North Carolina saw almost a foot of rain just a few hours, and footage showed sea levels begin to surge in land.

At 23:00 local time (03:00 GMT) the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said wind speeds had slightly lowered, making it a category one hurricane.

The NHC says that despite the gradual lowering in wind strength, the storm remains extremely dangerous because of the high volume of rainfall and storm surges predicted.

“Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that’s what we’re about to see,” said Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).

He said that people living near rivers, streams and lowland areas in the region were most at risk.

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The storm is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rainwater on US soil, most of it in North Carolina, meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted.

In 2017 Hurricane Harvey dumped some 33 trillion gallons of rainwater in the US.

How are people coping?

More than a million people have been ordered to leave the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, with more than 12,000 taking refuge in emergency shelters.

Asked what she was most worried about, Monica Scott, a young mother who had brought her children to a shelter in North Carolina, said: “Not having a place to go home to, or a job.”

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Reuters

Image caption

This was the scene in New Bern, North Carolina

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Getty Images

Image caption

This couple in South Carolina moved their wedding forward as the hurricane threatened

Not everyone, though, has obeyed the warnings.

Queues were reported outside a branch of Waffle House in the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina. The restaurant is used as a measure of how bad storms are.

A man in North Carolina said he would stay with his dog, since shelters were not taking pets. “I’m not leaving him here,” Antonio Ramirez told the AFP news agency,

More than 455,775 homes and businesses are already without power, but energy companies warn up to three million homes and businesses could lose electricity.

Media captionPeople have left homes and taken precautions ahead of the hurricane

Officials have warned restoring electricity could take days or even weeks. Petrol stations in the area are also reporting shortages.

Parts of New Bern, North Carolina, are 3m (10 feet) underwater and 150 people are waiting to be rescued, authorities there said.

Davice Daniels from the New Bern Police Department said those unable to leave their homes should move up to higher floors.

But officials warn against entering attics, unless people have a means to cut through to the roof to avoid drowning.

Over 1,400 flights have been cancelled, according to FlightAware.com, as most of the coastal region’s airports are closed to ride out the storm.

Emergency workers are arriving from other parts of the US to aid in rescues.

How long will this last?

Latest predictions show the storm slowing to a near standstill as it pummels the coast with “copious amounts of rain” from Thursday night to Saturday.

Wind speeds are only expected to weaken on Saturday as the storm moves slowly across land.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world’s deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane – in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific – or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

“Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma’s eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale – other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

“For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

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Hurricane Florence: Life-threatening storm lands in North Carolina

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