'Don't play games with it': Florence takes aim at Carolinas

Map shows probable path of Hurricane Florence

While some said they planned to stay put despite hurricane watches and warnings that include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast, many weren't taking any chances.

Posted: Sep 12, 2018 7:20 AM
Updated: Sep 12, 2018 11:16 AM

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Communities along the Carolina coast buttoned up against the onslaught of Hurricane Florence as forecasters Wednesday warned that the monstrous storm could hesitate just offshore for days — punishing a longer stretch of coastline harder than previously feared — before pushing inland over the weekend.

In a videotaped message from the White House, President Donald Trump said the government is fully prepared for Florence but urged people to "get out of its way."

"Don't play games with it. It's a big one," he said.

The National Hurricane Center's projected track had Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast from Thursday night until landfall Saturday morning or so, about a day later than previously expected. The track also shifted somewhat south and west, throwing Georgia into peril as Florence moves inland.

The overall trend is "exceptionally bad news," said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge."

As of 11 a.m., Florence, a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm, was centered 485 miles (785 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 15 mph (24 kph). It was packing winds of 130 mph (215 kph) and enough moisture to dump feet of rain on the region.

A hurricane-hunter airplane measured 83-foot waves near the eye of Florence, according to a tweet from the National Hurricane Center.

"This is not going to be a glancing blow," warned Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast."

As of Tuesday, about 1.7 million people in North and South Carolina and Virginia were under warnings to evacuate the coast, and hurricane watches and warnings extended across an area with about 5.4 million residents. Cars and trucks full of people and belongings streamed inland.

If some of the computer projections hold, "it's going to come roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say, 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland,'" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground forecasting service.

With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, Ohio vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand. Most other beachgoers were long done.

"It's been really nice," Nicole Roland said. "Also, a little creepy. You feel like you should have already left."

For many of those under evacuation orders, getting out of harm's way has proved difficult, as airlines canceled flights and motorists had a hard time finding gas.

Michelle Stober loaded up valuables at her home on Wrightsville Beach to drive back to her primary residence in Cary, North Carolina.

"This morning I drove around for an hour looking for gas in Cary. Everyone was sold out," she said.

Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac was expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.

The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet (2.75 meters) of water in spots, projections showed. The Navy, Air Force and Army were moving ships and aircraft out of harm's way. Thousands of Marines and their families evacuated from Camp Lejeune, leaving the rest to dig in ahead of what could be a direct hit.

Florence's projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons.

In Wilmington, resident Michael Wilson fortified his home against the wind and rain, and worried.

"The biggest thing is you're always worried about yourself and friends and family — and whether they'll have a place to come back to," he said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 603966

Reported Deaths: 7611
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1248011773
Ramsey52461895
Dakota46789470
Anoka42717458
Washington27397290
Stearns22550224
St. Louis18128312
Scott17543134
Wright16403148
Olmsted13388102
Sherburne1200194
Carver1066148
Clay825592
Rice8186110
Blue Earth762343
Crow Wing681594
Kandiyohi667285
Chisago619552
Otter Tail585684
Benton582998
Goodhue483473
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461151
Itasca458963
Isanti439764
McLeod429861
Morrison424462
Nobles407950
Beltrami407360
Steele397616
Polk389072
Becker386555
Lyon363853
Carlton352756
Freeborn346932
Pine335023
Nicollet331045
Mille Lacs311454
Brown307840
Le Sueur297125
Cass285832
Todd285632
Meeker263042
Waseca237823
Martin234932
Roseau211021
Wabasha20783
Hubbard196041
Dodge18773
Renville182446
Redwood176338
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena162723
Fillmore157410
Faribault154319
Chippewa153938
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138737
Watonwan13589
Rock128719
Jackson122612
Pipestone116626
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11296
Murray107010
Swift106918
Koochiching94917
Stevens92411
Clearwater89116
Marshall88717
Wilkin83112
Lake83020
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5938
Lincoln5843
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48093
Red Lake4017
Traverse3755
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370754

Reported Deaths: 6042
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58203638
Linn21197339
Scott20297246
Black Hawk16085312
Woodbury15232230
Johnson1461185
Dubuque13502211
Dallas1128999
Pottawattamie11219174
Story1070948
Warren583791
Clinton561493
Cerro Gordo553593
Sioux516974
Webster515294
Muscatine4878106
Marshall486576
Des Moines466970
Wapello4335122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421072
Plymouth402981
Lee381956
Marion366076
Jones300857
Henry294237
Bremer287860
Carroll286852
Boone268534
Crawford268440
Benton259655
Washington257051
Dickinson249444
Mahaska232351
Jackson225242
Clay216627
Kossuth216166
Tama211771
Delaware210943
Winneshiek198135
Page194522
Buchanan193433
Cedar192123
Hardin187444
Fayette186543
Wright185840
Hamilton181851
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
Butler166035
Madison164619
Mills163324
Floyd163042
Cherokee159438
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152552
Hancock150134
Iowa149824
Winnebago144431
Cass139155
Calhoun138913
Grundy137133
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131437
Sac130820
Union129935
Louisa129649
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124617
Franklin123323
Guthrie123132
Humboldt119526
Palo Alto113523
Howard104922
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96432
Monroe96230
Unassigned9560
Ida91535
Adair87332
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Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7598
Taylor66712
Fremont6269
Decatur6159
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Strong thunderstorms possible on Thursday
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