The latest on Florence along the East Coast

Published 1:47 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Hurricanes Florence and Isaac (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

North Carolina’s governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation for the state’s barrier islands as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he had issued a first-of-its-kind state evacuation to help prompt residents of the barrier islands, including the Outer Banks, to leave.

Cooper said local governments are typically responsible for issuing evacuation orders in North Carolina, and some localities have already issued orders to evacuate.

But Cooper said he believed Florence will be “so fierce” that the state needs to provide an “added incentive” for people to leave.

Governors in South Carolina and Virginia have also issued mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the storm.


1:30 p.m.

Meteorologists say they are expecting rainfall from Hurricane Florence to measure in feet, not inches.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center forecasts as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain, if not more, for parts of North Carolina. Rain could reach as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) elsewhere in North Carolina, Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

But one trusted computer model, the European simulation, is predicting more than 45 inches (114 centimeters) of rain in parts of North Carolina, such as New Hanover County, with meteorologists comparing the rainfall to last year’s Hurricane Harvey.

A year ago people would have laughed off a forecast of 45 inches of rain, but the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches (152 centimeters) of rain for Harvey.

University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy says it is “looking likely” that Florence will unleash feet (meters), not inches (centimeters) of rain.


12:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the federal government is “absolutely, totally prepared” for Hurricane Florence as it heads toward the Eastern Seaboard.

The president briefed reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday.

Trump has declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina ahead of the Category 4 hurricane, which frees up help from federal agencies.

He has also canceled campaign events Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the storm.

The president was meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency later Tuesday.


12:50 p.m.

Some areas in Florence’s path, particularly northern Virginia, have seen more rainfall than normal this summer, and National Weather Service officials say that means flooding might begin more quickly.

Data from the weather service show some parts of northern Virginia have seen 10 inches (25 centimeters) or more of precipitation above average over the past 90 days.

Fred Turck is part of the Virginia’s Department of Forestry’s fire and emergency response division. He says the department is concerned about what could be excessive timber damage. He says when soil is saturated, less wind than normally would be needed can topple a tree because the roots don’t hold as well.

Turck says tree damage will result in short-term impacts like power outages, blocked roads and damaged structures but could also impact the long-term health of forests and lead to wildfire problem.


12:30 p.m.

The mayor of Washington, D.C., has declared a state of emergency as the nation’s capital prepares for heavy rains, flooding and power outages related to Hurricane Florence.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the move Tuesday morning, describing it as a necessary step to “ensure we have the resources and support” to handle several days of torrential rain.

Several public events and street festivals scheduled for this weekend have been canceled, and Bowser advised Washington residents to stock up on groceries and batteries and make sure their prescriptions are filled.

City officials say the primary dangers to residents will come from flash flooding and power lines downed by falling tree branches.


12:15 p.m.

Some Virginians who have been ordered to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence may have to wait a few days before they can get into a free shelter.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jeff Caldwell said local governments are responsible for opening up shelters for evacuees and some won’t open until Wednesday or Thursday.

Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas that went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The order affects 245,000 residents in the Hampton Roads area, the Eastern Shore and other coastal areas.

Caldwell said the state is considering opening its own shelters later this week if the local shelters fill to capacity.


12:15 p.m.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is saying his state is “in the bull’s-eye” of Hurricane Florence. The very center of that bull’s-eye may be Camp Lejeune. Authorities on the sprawling Marine Corps training base are in emergency mode, staging equipment and urging families on the base to build survival kits with the food and equipment needed to sustain themselves for 72 hours.

Mandatory coastal evacuations were in effect for civilians in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, but the military base posted on Facebook that different chains-of-command would decide whether to release non-essential personnel. Some military families are venting fears they won’t be able to evacuate in time.


12:15 p.m.

Officials say they’re taking steps to ensure safety at nuclear power plants in South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane nears the state.

Ryan Mosier of Duke Energy told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the power company was closely monitoring Hurricane Florence and ensuring that emergency equipment is in working order.

Duke operates three nuclear stations in South Carolina, though none are along the coast. SCANA operates two reactors at a site just north of Columbia.

Mosier says each of Duke’s sites has emergency generators for backup power, as well as pumps and other redundant systems and supplies of food and water for employees.

If forecasters predict any site will experience sustained winds of 73 mph (117 kph) or more, Mosier says operators will begin to shut down units at least two hours prior to impact.


11:55 a.m.

Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is preparing for a possible tropical storm system in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

The tropical system is one of five that have formed in the Atlantic Ocean, including hurricanes Florence and Helene, Tropical Storm Isaac and an as-yet unnamed system far off the East Coast. Abbott says Texas is keeping an eye on the system in the Gulf.

The National Hurricane Center says that system could become a tropical depression by Thursday or Friday, and that residents along both the Texas and Louisiana coasts should monitor the storm.

Florence is the most powerful and dangerous of all the weather systems. The Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph (215 kph) winds was barreling toward the coasts of North and South Carolina and has been forecast to hit land as an extremely large, powerful and dangerous storm. Some coastal residents have been ordered to evacuate.


11:30 a.m.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says he has lifted mandatory evacuation orders in three counties along the state’s southern coast. McMaster made the announcement Tuesday as forecasters continued to show Hurricane Florence’s projected tract moving farther northward. McMaster also said lane reversals would begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday on Interstate 26, an hour earlier than had been scheduled, allowing all lanes of the interstate to move westward, away from the coast.


10:55 a.m.

Forecasters say Florence will arrive on land as an extremely dangerous major hurricane by the end of the week.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Florence has maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (215 kph). By 11 a.m. Tuesday, Florence was centered about 905 miles (1,455 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west-northwest at 16 mph (25 kph). Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday, then approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina.

Two other storms are spinning in the Atlantic as the 2018 hurricane season peaks: Tropical Storm Isaac is approaching the Caribbean, while Hurricane Helene is no threat to land over waters. As Isaac approaches the Caribbean, hurricane watches are in effect for Guadeloupe, Martinique and Dominica, while a tropical storm watch was issued for Antigua and Montserrat.


10:50 a.m.

The Navy has authorized an emergency evacuation order ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

Rear Adm. Charles Rock is commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic. He said in a statement Tuesday that the safety of personnel and families is his top priority now.

The order follows Virginia’s evacuation order and remains in effect until Sept. 16. So far, state officials’ tiered system only requires residents of the most flood-prone areas, known as “Zone A,” to leave their homes.

The Navy’s order applies to Navy and civilian personnel, dependents of active-duty service members and reservists on active duty living in Hampton Roads and Zone A.

The Navy says Region Mid-Atlantic evacuees are authorized to proceed within 500 miles (805 kilometers) of the designated remote safe haven area of Asheville, North Carolina. Others should head to the remote safe haven area designated by their parent chain of command.


10:50 a.m.

The Virginia Department of Corrections has evacuated inmates from a coastal prison as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast.

The department said in a statement Tuesday that the Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake was evacuated Monday night after Gov. Ralph Northam issued a mandatory evacuation order for some of the state’s lowest-lying coastal areas. The medium-security facility provides treatment programs for substance-abusing offenders.

The department also says all visitation statewide is canceled for Saturday and Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is expected to approach the coast of North or South Carolina on Thursday, but Virginia is also under a state of emergency. Officials say the state is expecting a coastal storm surge, high wind, inland flooding and widespread power outages.


10:50 a.m.

The Democrat running to be South Carolina’s next governor has been called up for guard duty as the state prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

Campaign spokesman Brad Warthen tells The Associated Press that James Smith has been activated as part of his service as a major in the South Carolina Army National Guard.

Warthen didn’t know specifically where Smith had been stationed, but the Army says guardsmen typically help when traffic patterns are altered for evacuations.

Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of South Carolina’s coastline. State troopers are clearing eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 so that they could be reversed later Tuesday.

Smith is challenging McMaster in this fall’s election. On Monday, both candidates suspended their campaigns as the state gets ready for the storm.

The Army says the South Carolina National Guard has mobilized about 1,600 soldiers and airmen to prepare for Hurricane Florence.


10:45 a.m.

South Carolina‘s governor has ordered more than a million people living along the state’s coast to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence.

Gov. Henry McMaster says he’s preparing the state for winds as powerful as Hurricane Hugo, which plowed inland nearly 30 years ago and caused devastating damage.

McMaster said on CNN Tuesday that officials are “taking nothing for granted” with Florence predicted to make landfall Thursday. The storm is so huge that South Carolina won’t be spared even if it escapes the eye of the hurricane.

The evacuation order becomes mandatory at noon Tuesday, but cameras show traffic already backing up along the main interstate connecting Charleston and Columbia.


10:30 a.m.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham is warning that the “staggering” size of Florence means its impacts will be felt far and wide.

Forecasters say hurricane-force winds extend up to 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the center of Hurricane Florence, and tropical storm-force winds reach up to 150 miles (240 kilometers) from its eye.

That means the hurricane will be dumping rain over multiple East Coast states, and it’s not just a coastal problem. With torrential rains in the Appalachian mountains, that water could easily cause flash floods.


10:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump is canceling a campaign rally in advance of Hurricane Florence’s landfall.

His campaign says it’s canceling a Thursday event in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where he had been scheduled to stump for the Republican senate candidate, state attorney general Josh Hawley.

The campaign said the event was scuttled out of safety concerns. It was the second rally Trump cancelled this week due to the storm, following a Friday rally slated for Mississippi.

The massive hurricane is closing in on the Carolinas and Virginia and could cause disastrous weather as far as Pennsylvania and Ohio.


8 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says a new report from an Air Force Reserve Unit hurricane hunter aircraft indicates that Hurricane Florence’s top sustained winds have decreased slightly to 130 mph (215 kph), with higher gusts.

Florence is still a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to regain its top wind strength in the next day or so. It remains an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday night.

The 8 a.m. forecast changes the storm surge watch for the eastern United States, with the worst impact, a surge of up to 12 feet, expected on a stretch from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout in North Carolina. It says total rainfall could reach 30 inches in some places, prompting life-threatening flash flooding from South Carolina to Northern Virginia.


5:20 a.m.

Hurricane Florence has slightly increased in speed as it heads toward the U.S. East Coast.

The National Hurricane Center said Tuesday morning that Florence is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph (24 kmh) and the storm will continue a slight increase in speed during the next couple of days.

The Miami-based center says the storm’s center was located about 410 miles (660 kilometers) south of Bermuda and about 975 miles (1570 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 140 mph (220 kph) as it moved west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday night.


11:10 p.m.

Hurricane Florence continues to grow in size and magnitude as it barrels toward the U.S. East Coast.

The National Hurricane Center said Monday the monster storm will be close to Category 5 strength by Tuesday. A Category 5 storm has the potential to cause catastrophic damage.

“The bottom line is that there is high confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity,” the hurricane center said. Florence was a Category 4 storm late afternoon Monday.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the storm’s center was located about 465 miles (750 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda and about 1,085 miles (1745 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 140 mph (220 kph) as it moved west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

Some strengthening is expected during the next 36 hours, and Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday.