Residents flee before Florence strikes land

Hurricane Florence has the potential to cause "massive damage" to parts of the southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States -- and not just in the coastal areas where the storm aims to make landfall Friday morning, officials warned. CNN's Nick Valencia reports.

Posted: Sep 12, 2018 4:54 PM
Updated: Sep 12, 2018 5:12 PM

Even by major hurricane standards, Florence is a beast like no other.

The National Weather Service calls it a "storm of a lifetime" -- and for good reason.

A perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances means Florence will likely be catastrophic for parts of the Southeast. Here's what makes this hurricane so unusual:

1. Its brute force

Florence catapulted from a Category 2 to a Category 4 hurricane in just a few hours. Even scarier: It could get more violent as it gets closer to the Carolinas.

"This storm is going to get stronger before it makes landfall," CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

As of midday Wednesday, Florence was hurling 130-mph winds. But before it pummels the US coastline, Florence could become close to a Category 5 storm -- meaning winds could approach 157 mph.

2. Its marathon attack

Around the same time Florence makes landfall, the steering winds pushing it forward will die down. In other words, this hurricane will basically stall -- pounding the same parts of the Carolinas over and over again.

From late Thursday through early Sunday, Florence will travel "literally slower than a walking pace (2 to 3 mph on average)," CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

As a result, the coastal Carolinas will suffer more than 24 hours of hurricane-force winds and storm surge, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

This kind of long-term attack portends severe destruction. While a fast-traveling hurricane might blow off some shingles, a relentless onslaught such as this could easily blow off roofs or destroy houses.

"It's cumulative damage," Myers said. "If you're blowing 100 or 120 mph on homes, they're going to start to deteriorate. So will the trees. So will the power lines, as the power lines fall down as well."

3. The deadly walls of water

But astonishing winds aren't the biggest danger. That would actually be Florence's storm surge, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

"Storm surge has the highest potential to kill the most amount of people," FEMA Administrator Brock Long said. "It also has the highest potential to cause the most destruction."

Storm surge is basically a wall of water that could swallow parts of the coast.

"This will have a storm surge in the 20-foot range," Myers said.

To put things in perspective, any storm surge taller than 12 feet is "life-threatening," National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

And no one knows how far inland that coastal flooding will spread, and how many inland communities will be washed out.

4. It will cause massive inland flooding

Aside from the coastal flooding, expect colossal freshwater flooding as well. That's because the longer this slow-moving hurricane hovers over land, the more rain it'll dump in the same places.

"With this storm, what's unique is it's forecast to stall ... dropping copious amounts of rainfall across the Carolinas and into Virginia," Long said. "So this is not just going to be a coastal threat. It's a statewide threat for the states involved."

Florence will unload up to 40 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina. By comparison, Washington, D.C., gets an average of 40 inches of rain per year.

What's worse: Much of the Carolinas are already saturated from rainfall. So the land can't absorb much more water.

"Inland flooding will be a major threat and something people far from the landfall location should be concerned about," CNN's Miller said.

5. It's barreling toward people not used to big hurricanes

The Carolinas will likely bear the brunt of Florence's wrath. But that part of the East Coast rarely sees major hurricanes.

And in the 29 years since Hurricane Hugo struck, the population of the coastal Carolinas has skyrocketed.

"There's 25% more people living between Charleston (South Carolina) and Morehead City (North Carolina) than there were when Hugo was making landfall," Myers said.

"Many of the people here have never seen a storm this strong," he said.

"They have no idea what 'overwash' of an island will do to a home, what the wind could do to your home and what to do to your home to make it safer after you evacuate."

Even Wilmington, North Carolina -- a coastal city accustomed to severe weather -- is bracing for an unusually brutal impact.

"We're a resilient bunch down here. We go through a lot of these hurricane scares throughout the years," Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. "But this is pretty serious."

He warned residents to take precautions "because once this storm is upon us, we're not going to be able to send emergency personnel out to rescue you."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 818652

Reported Deaths: 15378
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147091924
Mobile724971336
Madison52231697
Shelby37575349
Baldwin37224549
Tuscaloosa35073612
Montgomery34092739
Lee23519246
Calhoun22221482
Morgan20910378
Etowah19816498
Marshall18338303
Houston17360412
St. Clair16034339
Cullman15406293
Limestone15328199
Elmore15186286
Lauderdale14270295
Talladega13827281
DeKalb12637261
Walker11180370
Blount10179176
Autauga9967148
Jackson9860183
Coffee9205191
Dale8884185
Colbert8840201
Tallapoosa7079198
Escambia6766132
Covington6706183
Chilton6633161
Russell635259
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion4995126
Dallas4949200
Pike4791105
Clarke475484
Geneva4568127
Winston4507103
Lawrence4309117
Bibb424686
Barbour357576
Marengo337890
Monroe331463
Randolph329864
Butler325896
Pickens315682
Henry311966
Hale311188
Cherokee302360
Fayette292379
Washington251351
Cleburne247460
Crenshaw244875
Clay243068
Macon234163
Lamar223347
Conecuh185953
Coosa180040
Lowndes174764
Wilcox168739
Bullock151644
Perry138340
Sumter132938
Greene126644
Choctaw88227
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Clear cool and dry to begin your weekend, but both afternoons should be a little bit above what we expect for this time of year temperature wise. Rain chances begin to return late Sunday night, with at least two chances for storms over the next week, summer could be strong.
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