103434610 florence2 14 09 nc - Hurricane Florence: Where is being hit?
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Hurricane Florence: Where is being hit?


US officials are warning Hurricane Florence could kill “a lot of people” with risks of “catastrophic” flooding as the storm begins to lash the country’s East Coast.

Florence, although now downgraded to a category one storm, is slow-moving and could linger for days, bringing “copious amounts of rain”.

Florence made landfall on Friday, with the centre of the storm striking Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, with gales of up to 90mph (150 km/h).

Satellite image of the eye of Hurricane FlorenceImage copyright
NASA Earth Observatory

The National Hurricane Center 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.

Path of Hurricane Florence

Some 10 million people are now under some form of storm watch.

Storm will hit east coast

Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland have declared a state of emergency as forecasts showed Florence dumping historic amounts of rain on the area.

Tens of thousands of homes are already without power and sea water is washing through coastal streets.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) said people living near rivers, streams and lowland areas in the region were most at risk.

“Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that’s what we’re about to see,” said Brock Long, head of Fema.

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

More than 1,400 flights have been cancelled, according to FlightAware.com, with most of the coastal region’s airports closed.

The weather system that became Hurricane Florence has been travelling west from Africa toward the US since 29 August. Its wind speeds reached hurricane levels in the mid-Atlantic.

Storm surges could be devastating

The biggest danger to life could be from storm surges, which are still predicted to be as high as 13ft (4m) between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout in North Carolina.

Meteorologists have warned some rivers may see their flows “reversed”.

Storm surges are caused when huge volumes of water are pushed by hurricane-force winds. When they meet land, the water surges inshore at levels far exceeding normal tides.

Storm could dump record rainfall

Florence is forecast to dump up to one metre (40 ins) of rain in some areas after it makes landfall.

The torrential rainfall could last for significant periods and cause catastrophic flooding, including in inland areas such as Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

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

Florence’s winds are still strong

The hurricane’s wind speeds have fallen from a category two level of 96-110mph to a category one level of 74-95mph.

There will be hurricane-force winds up to 80 miles from the centre of the storm, meteorologists say.

Florence was being followed in the Atlantic by two other storms – Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac.

But Helene is now moving north east towards the UK and Isaac is moving west across the Caribbean.

How hurricanes happen

Hurricanes

Hurricane Florence 039Extremely dangerous039 storm threatens East Coast - Hurricane Florence: Where is being hit?

A guide to the world’s deadliest storms

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

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

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

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

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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.

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“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)

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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.

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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.

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“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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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