More than a million people were ordered to evacuate the path of Hurricane Florence on Monday as it rapidly strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane as it closed in on North and South Carolina.
South Carolina ordered the state’s entire coastline, which includes an estimated one million residents, to leave their homes ahead of the powerful storm’s arrival on Thursday. Neighboring North Carolina also ordered an evacuation of some 250,000 residents on the Outer Banks and parts of coastal Dare County, while a state of emergency was declared in both Virginia and Maryland.
Florence has winds of 130 miles per hour and is due to gain strength before making landfall early Thursday, bringing heavy rain that could cause severe flooding through the region. ‘Further strengthening is anticipated, and Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday,’ the National Hurricane Center said.
South Carolina’s emergency management agency said it was already ‘preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster’.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued the evacuation order on Monday for all eight counties along the coast, including: Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, and Berkeley.
‘This is a very dangerous hurricane,’ McMaster said, adding that the evacuation order for coastal counties was ‘mandatory, not voluntary.’ ‘We do not want to risk one South Carolina life in this hurricane.’
He said storm surge could reach as high as 10 feet and estimated that one million residents would be leaving the coast. Eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 heading into Charleston and U.S. 501 heading into Myrtle Beach will be reversed when the order takes effect.
McMaster, as well as the governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, have already declared states of emergency.
‘Now is the time for your family also to prepare and stay tuned for more updates,’ McMaster said earlier. ‘Plan for the worst, pray for the best.’ Forecasters say the hurricane’s strength is expected to fluctuate but it still will be a dangerous storm by the time it reaches the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.
For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous conditions.
The storm’s potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous eastern hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore. He said people living well inland should prepare to lose power and endure flooding and other hazards. READ MORE