North Carolina feels first bite of mammoth Hurricane Florence

State’s governor says the storm’s arrival will be an ‘extremely dangerous situation’ and urged locals to leave

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 9:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 11:04pm

Coastal North Carolina felt the first bite of Hurricane Florence on Thursday as winds began to rise, a prelude to the slow-moving tempest that forecasters warn could cause catastrophic flooding across parts of the US southeast.

The centre of Florence is expected to hit North Carolina’s southern coast on Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday, enough time to drop feet of rain, according to the National Hurricane Centre.

Businesses and homes in the storm’s path were boarded up and thousands of people moved to emergency shelters, officials said, urging anyone near the coast to flee. Millions were expected to lose power, perhaps for weeks.

“There is still time to leave,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told CBS This Morning on Thursday. “This is an extremely dangerous situation.”

Florence’s maximum sustained winds were clocked on Thursday at 175km/h (110mph), according to the NHC.

If it stalls over land, downpours and flooding would be especially severe. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachians, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

The storm will be a test of President Donald Trump’s administration less than two months before elections that will determine control of Congress and after severe criticism for its handling of last year’s Hurricane Maria, which killed some 3,000 people in Puerto Rico.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is in charge of disaster response, has come under investigation over his use of government vehicles, Politico reported on Thursday.

Emergency preparations included activating more than 2,700 National Guard troops, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so major roads led away from shore, and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Some in Wilmington could not resist getting one last look at their downtown before the storm hit.

“We just thought we’d go out while we still can,” said Amy Baxter, on a walk near the city’s waterfront with her husband, two sons and dog.

Baxter and her family plan to ride out Florence at home with board games and playing cards.

“We live in a house that’s more than 100 years old,” she said. “We feel pretty safe.”