Florence intensified into a hurricane Sunday morning and is expected to keep on strengthening until it becomes an “extremely dangerous” storm that is likely to hit land later in the week. The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic coast are under threat from the hurricane that forecasters now say is unlikely to turn out to sea and is likely to hit the coast on Thursday.
“All indications are that Florence will be an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane while it moves over the western Atlantic toward the southeastern United States,” the National Hurricane Center said. It is still too early to predict the hurricane’s exact path, but the NHC said that a huge swath of coastal area from South Carolina to the mid-Atlantic region are under threat. “This is looking more and more like a life threatening situation,” National Weather Service meteorologist Nick Petro said.
The governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia all declared states of emergency as they prepare for possible landfall. “A hurricane is coming our way,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference Sunday. “Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit South Carolina. Be prepared. Be ready.”
Forecasters are particularly concerned about possible flooding. “This is very scary rain event potentially setting up this week,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossi said. “Florence could dump a foot of rain in places that cannot handle it, making for a very scary flooding situation in some areas.” Meteorologists aren’t mincing words when it comes to the potential devastation of Florence. Eric Holthaus warned on Twitter that Florence could spark “a multi-day heavy rainfall event which could produce catastrophic inland flooding.” For now, “all signs are that #Florence could be one of the worst storms in U.S. history,” he added.
If it hits the Carolinas as some forecasts predict, it would mark the first time the region has been hit by a Category 4 hurricane since Hugo in 1989. It would also mark the first time a Category 3 hurricane or higher has hit the East Coast since Jeanne in 2004.