ATLANTA — It could be the strongest storm to hit the Carolina’s in nearly three decades. Hurricane Florence rapidly gained strength Monday afternoon to a Category 4 storm.
Severe Weather Team 2 said the storm had sustained winds of 150 mph and wind gusts of upwards of 165 mph and it is moving toward the west northwest at 13 mph.
On the Channel 2 Action News Nightbeat at 11 Monday night, Severe Weather Team 2 Chief Meteorologist Glenn Burns showed new models that display a change in the projected path.
Earlier on Monday, it appeared Florence was moving in to southeastern South Carolina and into Wilmington, North Carolina, now it's moving more towards Cape Hatteras for when it's expected to make landfall on Thursday night.
Burns said the main threat would be around Cape Hatteras and we will see a significant storm.
Severe Weather Team 2's five meteorologists have been monitoring Florence around the clock since it started forming in the Atlantic Ocean last week.
"The problem is, it slows down, almost stalling," Burns said about the storm once it makes landfall. "We're going to have catastrophic winds, storm surge along the coastal areas of North Carolina, maybe extreme upstate South Carolina. And the other impact is going to be flooding rain."
Burns said he would not be surprised to see Florence produce 10-15 inches of rain before the storm fizzles out.
More than 1 million people have been told to evacuate ahead of the storm. Virginia's governor ordered an additional 245,000 people to evacuate on top of the 1 million.
Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan says this is what you need to know now:
1. Florence has strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane.
2. No change in the track: It is expected to be near the coast of the Carolinas late this week.
3. Major coastal impacts: Huge waves/swells, beach erosion, rip currents up and down the East Coast.
4. North Georgia: We're on the DRY side of the system and breezy/windy weather is possible here later this week, but our rain chances actually go DOWN with this track.
The South Carolina governor ordered the state's entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee.
Gov. Henry McMaster said storm surge could reach as high as 10 feet when Florence hits. He said the eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 heading into Charleston and U.S. 501 heading into Myrtle Beach will be reversed when the order takes effect.
Several communities along the North Carolina coast have been ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm as well.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper told our sister station, WSOC-TV, in Charlotte, that the state is in the "bull's-eye" of the rapidly strengthening storm.
In a news conference at the state’s Emergency Operations Center, Cooper said he has asked President Donald Trump for a federal disaster declaration so that resources will be ready when the storm arrives. Cooper already issued a state of emergency late last week.
The president took to Twitter late Monday afternoon, saying the federal government is ready to respond to the aftermath of the storm.
The storm's first effects were already being seen Monday on barrier islands as dangerous rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway. Communities along a stretch of coastline that is vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change prepared to evacuate.
Two other storms were spinning in the Atlantic. Hurricane Isaac was expected to lose strength as it reaches the Caribbean, and Helene, much farther out to sea, may veer northward into the open ocean as the 2018 hurricane season reaches its peak.
In the Pacific, Hurricane Olivia triggered warnings for multiple Hawaiian islands as it blew west toward an arrival over the state as soon as late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Katie Walls said that residents along the Georgia Coast need to be prepared, but that most of the effects look like they will skip Georgia.
"Being prepared can save lives, property and a lot of misery," said Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. "With Florence quickly approaching, I'm urging all Georgia residents to take action to protect themselves, their homes and their businesses."
Hudgens also suggests following these steps to prepare for the storm:
- For personal safety, identify what storm shelter is available to you and prepare an evacuation plan.
- Make a plan for your pets. Not all emergency shelters will take pets.
- Contact your insurance agent immediately if you have had damage to either your house or car; do not delay. Your agent should provide you with claim forms and arrange for an insurance adjuster to visit your property or look at your car.
- A typical homeowner's policy does not cover damage from floodwaters. A separate policy must be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program. Coverage usually goes into effect 30 days after the policy is purchased.
- Unlike a typical homeowner's policy, a mobile home policy usually includes flood coverage and does not have to be purchased separately.
- Secure your property. For example, if your roof was damaged or blown off, or a tree has pierced the roof, cover the affected area with a tarp or plywood to protect your property from further damage. Keep receipts of materials used for repairs; your insurance company should reimburse you for repair costs.
- As the storm slows down and potentially stalls over the weekend next weekend, two feet or more of rain could fall over parts of the Mid-Atlantic.
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