Flooding on the horizon for South Carolina, a week after Florence

A closeup of flooded homes and roads near the River Landing Country Club, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, is seen in this satellite image over the area in Wallace, North Carolina, U.S., September 20, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company/Handout via REUTERS

By Anna Mehler Paperny

KINSTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Residents in Georgetown County, South Carolina, where five rivers flow into the ocean, will prepare on Friday for a deluge of water in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which has killed more than 40 people.

Lying on Atlantic Ocean between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, the county of about 60,000 people is one of several areas across the Carolinas waiting anxiously for rivers to crest, a week after Florence dumped some three feet of rain in the region.

Flooding could begin early next week, officials said during a community meeting on Thursday. The city of Georgetown on Friday will hand out 15,000 sandbags as the county develops plans to evacuate residents.

Local residents walk along the edge of a collapsed road that ran atop Patricia Lake's dam after it collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Local residents walk along the edge of a collapsed road that ran atop Patricia Lake’s dam after it collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

“Please heed the warnings,” Sheriff Lane Cribb said. “Protecting lives and property will be our goal … You better pray. I think we all need to pray that it don’t happen.”

More than three dozen flood gauges in North and South Carolina showed flooding. Some rivers had still not crested by Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Thirty-one deaths have been attributed to the storm in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and one in Virginia.

Michael Ziolkowski, a Field Operations Supervisor for the National Disaster Response K-9 Unit and his partner, Morty, are transported to support relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, North Carolina, September 16, 2018. Spc. Austin T. Boucher/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS

Michael Ziolkowski, a Field Operations Supervisor for the National Disaster Response K-9 Unit and his partner, Morty, are transported to support relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, North Carolina, September 16, 2018. Spc. Austin T. Boucher/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS

Some 4,700 people across North Carolina have been rescued by boat or helicopter since the storm made landfall, twice as many as in Hurricane Matthew two years ago, according to state officials. About 10,000 remain in shelters.

The coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina, remained cut off by floodwaters on Thursday. More than 200 roads across the state were closed or blocked as residents. Over 60,000 customers were without power in North Carolina early on Friday, according to Poweroutage.us.

As floodwaters continue to rise, concerns are growing about the environmental and health dangers lurking in the water.

The flooding has caused 21 hog “lagoons,” which store manure from pig farms, to overflow in North Carolina, creating a risk that standing water will be contaminated, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. North Carolina is one of the leading hog-producing states in the country.

Several sewer systems in the region also have released untreated or partly treated sewage and storm water into waterways over the last week, local media reported.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Kinston, North Carolina; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Conway, South Carolina, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Scott DiSavino in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; writing by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Larry King)

Hurricane raises questions about rebuilding along North Carolina’s coast

People work in the reconstruction of Rodanthe pier after being partially damaged after the pass of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression in Rodanthe, North Carolina, U.S., September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Anna Mehler Paperny

RODANTHE, N.C. (Reuters) – When Florence was raging last Friday on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the hurricane tore a 40-foot (12-meter) chunk from a fishing pier that juts into the ocean at the state’s most popular tourist destination.

The privately owned Rodanthe pier has already undergone half a million dollars in renovation in seven years and the owners started a new round of repairs this week.

“The maintenance and upkeep on a wooden fishing pier is tremendous,” said co-owner Terry Plumblee. “We get the brunt of the rough water here.”

Scientists have warned such rebuilding efforts are futile as sea levels rise and storms chew away the coastline but protests from developers and the tourism industry have led North Carolina to pass laws that disregard the predictions.

The Outer Banks, a string of narrow barrier islands where Rodanthe is situated, may have been spared the worst of Florence, which flooded roads, smashed homes and killed at least 36 people across the eastern seaboard.

Still, the storm showed North Carolinians on this long spindly finger of land that ignoring the forces of nature to cling to their homes and the coast’s $2.4 billion economy may not be sustainable.

Some have called for halting oceanside development altogether.

“We need to actually begin an organized retreat from the rising seas,” said Duke University geologist Orrin Pilkey.

In a government study published in 2010, scientists warned that sea levels could rise 39 inches by 2100

Higher sea level will cause more flooding and render some communities uninhabitable, as well as affect the ocean vegetation, jeopardize the dune systems that help stabilize the barrier islands, and cause more intense erosion when storms like Florence make landfall, scientists said.

Developers said the study was too theoretical to dictate policy.

Some argue policymakers do not need a 90-year projection to know something needs to change.

“When we have a hurricane, that shows everybody where their vulnerabilities are today, forget 100 years from now, but right now,” said Rob Young, a geologist at Western Carolina University who co-authored the study by the state’s Coastal Resources Commission (CRC).

Young said he would like to see development move back from the ocean’s edge and laments that homeowners and developers rebuild almost any structure damaged or destroyed by a bad storm.

But the idea of retreating is a tough sell for the people who live there and have invested in property.

“You’re asking us to say, ‘Hey, 4,000 or 5,000 people on little Hatteras Island, it’s time for you to pack up and move,’ and that’s not a reasonable expectation,” said Bobby Outten, manager for Dare County on the Outer Banks.

Opponents of using the CRC study to set policy said that most Outer Bank homeowners recognize the risks.

“If you’re buying on the coast, anyone that buys in an area surrounded by water, you’re always taking a risk that you’re going to have storm damage,” said Willo Kelly, who has worked in real estate for more than a decade.

Even though she acknowledges that sea levels are rising, Kelly is also among those who opposed making state policy decisions, including anything affecting home insurance or property values, based on the study’s dire 90-year forecast of sea-level rise.

Kelly supported a 2012 state law that banned North Carolina from using the 90-year prediction on rising sea levels to influence coastal development policy.

The CRC released a second report in 2015 predicting sea level rise over a 30-year period, instead of 90 years. The new report was praised by developers as being more realistic and said sea levels would rise 1.9 to 10.6 inches. (https://bit.ly/2xyGDVr)

The 2012 law was welcomed by the development community and panned by scientists whose warnings, they felt, were going unheeded. Members of the legislature who sponsored the bill did not return requests for comment.

After this year’s storm demolished the sandy protective berms that stand between the water and the main coastal road, the state sent backhoes to rebuild them and officials to assess damage to bridges and roads.

“There’s also a sense of denial,” said Gavin Smith, director of the University of North Carolina’s Coastal Resilience Center, adding that with rising seas and more intense storms it will be more costly and more difficult to replace infrastructure.

Rodanthe Pier was lucky this time, sustaining only moderate damage, said Clive Thompson, 58, who works at the pier. In the past, nor’easters have ripped its end from the ground and tore pilings from sand.

The beach was not so lucky. The ocean ate away about 50 meters of what used to be dry sand above the high-tide line, he said.

“It’s a waste of man-hours, time and money, having to do this over and over,” he said. “One day I hope people understand the power of water. … It don’t play.”

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

Trump pledges strong federal support for hurricane-stricken Carolinas

U.S. President Donald Trump greets people while distributing food after Hurricane Florence in New Bern North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Jeff Mason and Ernest Scheyder

HAVELOCK/WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday promised that North and South Carolina would have strong federal support as they recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Florence, whose floodwaters continue to threaten the region.

“We’re going to be there 100 percent,” Trump told officials at a briefing shortly after arriving at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, North Carolina. “… There will be nothing left undone. You’ll have everything you need.”

Trump, who has been criticized for his handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, also thanked first responders for their work since Florence made landfall on Friday and recapped the efforts to get food to residents and restore power.

He was accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long, Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Supplies including bottled water are seen waiting to be loading into airplanes and be delivered to areas hit by Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, at the Raleigh Durham Airport in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Supplies including bottled water are seen waiting to be loading into airplanes and be delivered to areas hit by Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, at the Raleigh Durham Airport in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

More than 15,000 people remain in shelters and more than 200,000 customers are without power across North Carolina because of Florence, which came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, according to state officials.

Although the storm is long gone, river flooding still poses a danger to the area. The Cape Fear River was expected to crest at 61.5 feet (19 meters), four times its normal height, on Wednesday in Fayetteville, a city of 200,000 near the Fort Bragg army base in the southern part of the state, according to the National Weather Service. That has disrupted efforts to restore power, clear roads and allow evacuated residents to go home.

“There is a strong potential that those who live within the 1-mile evacuation area of the Cape Fear River will be impacted by flooding,” the city said in a statement.

The city manager told CNN that 12,000 people are “in harm’s way.”

Florence has killed at least 36 people, including 27 in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and one in Virginia. Two of the South Carolina victims were mental health patients who drowned on Tuesday when a van carrying them was swept away by floodwater.

A road is blocked by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, in Kinston, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

A road is blocked by flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, in Kinston, North Carolina, U.S., September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

SWOLLEN RIVERS

Thousands of rescues have taken place in the Carolinas. Fire and rescue crews were waiting to go into many areas to assist with structural damage resulting from Florence, which has dumped up to 36 inches (91 cm) of rain in parts of North Carolina since Thursday.

At least 16 rivers remained at a major flood stage, with three others set to crest in the coming days in North Carolina, the state said.

In the town of Fair Bluff, North Carolina, which has struggled to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, only about 50 residents remained on Tuesday, Fair Bluff Police Chief Chris Chafin told Reuters.

The town has largely been cut off by flooding from the still-rising Lumber River, which was expected to crest on Wednesday.

As Florence was bearing down on the Carolinas last week, Trump reignited the controversy over his handling of Maria by disputing the official death toll of 2,975 in the U.S. territory, which was compiled by public health experts at George Washington University. Trump said, without offering evidence, that Democrats had inflated the figure to make him look bad.

Maria also devastated the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, whose 3 million citizens are Americans but do not vote in presidential elections, and left much of the island without power for months. Critics said the Trump administration was slow to recognize the extent of the damage and slow to help.

Former basketball star Michael Jordan, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, and the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association, donated $2 million to the Florence recovery effort, the team said.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Patrick Rucker; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Miami; Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Jessica Resnick-Ault and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Anna Mehler Paperny in North Carolina and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Trott; Editing by David Stamp and Paul Simao)

Hurricane Florence makes landfall, set to inundate Carolinas

Water from Neuse River floods houses as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Ernest Scheyder

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Hurricane Florence, weakened but still dangerous, crashed into the Carolinas on Friday as a giant, slow-moving storm that stranded residents with floodwaters and swamped part of the town of New Bern at the beginning of what could be a days-long deluge.

The center of the hurricane’s eye came ashore at about 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Flood waters are seen in Belhaven, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Courtesy of Ben Johnson/via REUTERS

Flood waters are seen in Belhaven, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Courtesy of Ben Johnson/via REUTERS

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Florence was set to cover almost all of the state in several feet of water.

As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks barrier island chain, already had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the U.S. Geological Service said.

On the mainland in New Bern, authorities said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. The town’s public information officer, Colleen Roberts, told CNN 150 more people were awaiting rescue and that citizens were going out in their

boats to help, despite blowing waters and swift currents.

“WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU,” New Bern city officials said on Twitter. “You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU.”

There were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries but more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse, local officials said.

National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear predicted Florence would drop up to eight months’ worth of rain in two or three days.

More than 440,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and South Carolina early on Friday, utility officials said. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and that restoring it could take weeks.

The roof of a house is seen affected by winds from Hurricane Florence as it hits the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The roof of a house is seen affected by winds from Hurricane Florence as it hits the town of Wilson, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds on Thursday but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore. But forecasters said its extreme size meant it could batter the U.S. East Coast with hurricane-force winds for nearly a full day.

It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

Almost 20,000 people had taken refuge in 157 emergency shelters, Cooper said.

Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Still, some residents ignored calls to evacuate.

“I had a lot of fear initially but I’m glad to be inside and safe,” said Zelda Allen, 74, a retired tax accountant from Hampstead, North Carolina, who was riding out the storm at Wilmington’s Hotel Ballast with her husband.

“I’m worried about what I might find when I go home, though,” she said.

 

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)

Carolina coast battening down, boarding up as hurricane nears

Caitie Sweeney of Myrtle Beach texts her family while visiting the beach ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. REUTERS/Randall Hill

By Ernest Scheyder

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Beach communities in North and South Carolina emptied out on Wednesday as Hurricane Florence threatened to unleash pounding surf and potentially deadly flooding as the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on the southeastern states in decades.

Florence had maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour) and was on a trajectory that showed its center most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina by Friday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from South Carolina, where some areas could see as much as 40 inches (1m) of rain, to Virginia.

Florence is rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) invoked a former boxing champion to warn residents that it would bring “a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”

“The time to prepare is almost over,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper at a Wednesday morning news conference. “Disaster is at the doorstep and it’s coming in.”

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools and factories were being shuttered.

The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm’s center reaching the coast Friday. At 8 a.m. (1200 GMT) on Wednesday the storm was located about 530 miles (855 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

The storm surge, or wind-driven seawater, poses a huge danger, FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“People do not live and survive to tell the tale about what their experience is like with storm surge,” he said. “It’s the most deadly part of the hurricane that comes in.”

FEMA FUNDS MOVED

MSNBC reported the Trump administration had diverted nearly $10 billion from FEMA to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which leads border enforcement. But that has not affected the response to Florence, Byard told a news conference.

He said there was “well over $20 billion” in FEMA’s disaster relief fund.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter warned of the storm’s dangers and praised his administration’s handling of past hurricanes, rejecting criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria last year in Puerto Rico. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

“Hurricane Florence is looking even bigger than anticipated,” Trump said. “We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”

State and federal officials have frequently urged residents in the target zone to evacuate but there was resistance along the coast.

“I’m not approaching Florence from fear or panic,” said Brad Corpening, 35, who planned to ride out the storm in his boarded-up delicatessen in Wilmington. “It’s going to happen. We just need to figure out how to make it through.”

The last hurricane rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people.

Emergency preparations in the area included setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so that all major roads led away from shore and getting 16 nuclear reactors ready in the three-state region for the storm.

(For graphic on Hurricane Florence heads toward Carolinas, click https://tmsnrt.rs/2oZ5m1v)

(For graphic on forecast rainfall in inches from Hurricane Florence, click https://tmsnrt.rs/2oZFKSb)

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Scott Malone and Nick Zieminski)

Trump promises all-out response to Hurricane Florence

U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on hurricane preparations as FEMA Administrator Brock Long points to the potential track of Hurricane Florence on a graphic at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the federal government would spare no expense in responding to the likely damage from Hurricane Florence, which is forecast to slam the Carolina coast later this week.

“Any amounts of money, whatever it takes, we’re going to do it,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he met with top aides and federal disaster officials.

In remarks aimed at Americans who could find themselves in harm’s way, the president noted that experts were predicting a storm the likes of which the East Coast of the United States has not seen in decades.

“I would say everybody should get out, he said. “It’s going to be really, really bad along the coast.”

Federal forecasters expect the storm to make landfall on Friday with 130 mile-per-hour (215 kph) winds and massive waves, with rains taking a heavy toll inland. Some 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes.

The government’s top disaster response official, Federal Emergency Management Agency head Brock Long, told reporters that residents in areas likely to be affected should not under-estimate the threat.

“This has an opportunity of being a very devastating storm,” Long said. “The power is going to be off for weeks. You are going to be displaced from your home in the coastal areas, and there will be flooding in the inland areas as well.”

Trump, who has faced criticism for his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in 2017, which killed an estimated 3,000 people in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, knocked out power to all 3.4 million residents of the Caribbean island, with thousands still without power even six months after the storm hit, said the federal government was “totally prepared” for Florence.

“We’re ready. We’re as ready as anybody has ever been,” he said.

Asked what lessons could be learn from Maria, Trump said the government’s response in that case was complicated because Puerto Rico is an island and its electrical grid was already impaired.

“I actually think it was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done,” he said. “I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible unsung success.”

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, Carmen Yulin Cruz, blasted Trump for touting his administration’s response to the hurricane as a success.

“This was a despicable act of neglect on the part of his administration,” Cruz told CNN.

Florence, a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, was located about 785 miles (1,260 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT), according to the National Hurricane Center.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Leslie Adler)

‘Monster’ Hurricane Florence to pummel U.S. Southeast for days

Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station as it churns in the Atlantic Ocean towards the east coast of the United States, September 10, 2018. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Ernest Scheyder

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Hurricane Florence, on track to become the first Category 4 storm to make a direct hit on North Carolina in six decades, howled closer to shore on Tuesday, threatening to unleash deadly pounding surf, days of torrential rain and severe flooding.

Sailors cast off mooring lines to the Command hospital ship USNS Comfort as the ship evacuates Naval Station Norfolk in preparation for Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2018. Jennifer Hunt/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Sailors cast off mooring lines to the Command hospital ship USNS Comfort as the ship evacuates Naval Station Norfolk in preparation for Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2018. Jennifer Hunt/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and South Carolina and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall by early Friday, bringing a storm surge as much as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned. Catastrophic floods could follow if the storm stalls inland, it said.

Although Florence was still days from arrival, authorities took extraordinary measures to move people out of harm’s way. More than 1 million residents have been ordered to evacuate from the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools, and factories were being shuttered.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour (225 km per hour), the storm ranked as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and was expected to grow stronger and larger over the next few days, the NHC said.

“This storm is a monster,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”

He cited forecasts showing Florence was likely to stall over North Carolina, “bringing days and days of rain.”

To hasten evacuations from coastal South Carolina, officials reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so all major roads led away from shore.

Kathleen O’Neal, a resident of Ocracoke Island in North Carolina’s Barrier Islands, said she, her husband and son would ride out the storm. “A lot of local people are staying,” she said of the island, which is reachable only by ferry or plane.

John Muchmore helps to lay sandbags at the Afterdeck condos ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

John Muchmore helps to lay sandbags at the Afterdeck condos ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

LONG-TERM POWER OUTAGES POSSIBLE

Maps of Florence’s trajectory showed its center most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina. The last Category 4 hurricane to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people and destroyed some 15,000 homes.

NHC forecasts showed the effects of Florence would be widely felt, with tropical storm-force winds extending nearly 300 miles across three states. A hurricane warning was posted for most of the Carolina coast north to the Virginia border.

In addition to wind-driven storm surges of seawater, Florence could dump up to 35 inches (89 cm) in some spots as it moves inland, forecasters said.

Communities in Florence’s path could lose electricity for weeks due to downed power lines and flooded equipment, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said.

Utilities deployed crews and gear in advance, with workers en route to the region from at least 15 states, according to trade group, the Edison Electric Institute.

Crews also prepared 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region for the storm. One power station, Duke Energy Corp’s Brunswick plant, the closest to the area where landfall is forecast, faced a likely shutdown as a precaution. Shutdowns also were possible at two more plants in the path of predicted hurricane-force winds.

The American Red Cross said more than 700 workers were headed to the region while shelters were set up to house those unable to flee. A hospital in Hampton, Virginia, was transferring patients to safer places.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal resources for storm response.

“We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared,” Trump said at the White House.

Trump faced severe criticism for his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria last year in Puerto Rico. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on hurricane preparations as FEMA Administrator Brock Long points to the potential track of Hurricane Florence on a graphic at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on hurricane preparations as FEMA Administrator Brock Long points to the potential track of Hurricane Florence on a graphic at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

COMMERCIAL OPERATIONS

Days before its arrival, Florence was already disrupting commercial operations.

Boeing Co suspended work on Tuesday at the South Carolina plant where it assembles 787 widebody jetliners, and a Volvo automobile plant in South Carolina’s evacuation zone was also closed, company officials said.

Smithfield Foods Inc [SFII.UL] said it would shut down the world’s largest hog-slaughtering facility in Tar Heel, North Carolina, on Thursday and Friday due to the hurricane.

Residents prepared by boarding up their homes and stocking up on food, water and other essentials, stripping grocery store shelves of merchandise. Many gasoline stations were running low on fuel.

“I’m scared we’ll get 30 inches or more of rain,” said Carol Trojniar, 69, a longtime Wilmington resident and retired real estate agent who has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane. “What is flooding going to do to our home, our city?”

Trojniar said she and her husband were packing up belongings and plan to stack sandbags around their single-floor home in Wilmington’s eerily named Landfall neighborhood near the ocean before checking into a hotel to ride out the storm, with plenty of wine.

“Where else can we go? If we try to leave, we’ll just get stuck in the rain,” she said.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Holden Beach, North Carolina, Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, Liz Hampton in Houston, Susan Heavey in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Scott DiSavino and Alden Bentley in New York, Nichola Groom and Alex Dobzinskis in Los Angeles and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Zieminski, Bill Trott and Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Lisa Shumaker and Michael Perry)

U.S. southeast braces for ‘days and days’ of floods from Florence

Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station as it churns in the Atlantic Ocean towards the east coast of the United States, September 10, 2018. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Anna Driver

HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (Reuters) – The powerful Hurricane Florence threatened to bring “days and days” of rain and potentially deadly flooding to the U.S. southeast coast, North Carolina’s governor warned on Tuesday, as some 1 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes.

Vehicles travel westbound on Interstate 26 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence near Orangeburg, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Vehicles travel westbound on Interstate 26 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence near Orangeburg, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Keane

The storm threatened to hit coastal North and South Carolina with 130 mile per hour (210 kph) winds and massive waves when it makes landfall on Friday, and its rains will take a heavy toll for miles inland, the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned.

“This storm is a monster,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It’s an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane … the forecast shows Florence stalling over North Carolina, bringing days and days of rain.”

Cooper and his counterparts in neighboring South Carolina and Virginia ordered about 1 million people to evacuate coastal homes, including along the Outer Banks barrier islands that protect North Carolina’s shore. Officials in South Carolina reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so that all major roads led away from the sea to speed evacuations.

The slow-moving storm, the most severe hurricane to threaten the U.S. mainland this year, was rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale and located about 905 miles (1,455 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 11 a.m. EDT, according to the NHC.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for both North Carolina and South Carolina, freeing up federal money and resources for storm response. Officials have declared states of emergency in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

In addition to flooding the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 12 feet (3.7 m), Florence could drop 20 inches to as much as 30 inches (51 cm to 76 cm) of rain in places, forecasters said.

GRAPHIC: Hurricane Florence heads toward Carolinas – https://tmsnrt.rs/2oZ5m1v

‘PLANNING FOR DEVASTATION’

“This storm is going to be a direct hit on our coast,” said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “We are planning for devastation.”

Not everyone was in a hurry to leave. Charles Mullen, 81, a longtime resident of Hatteras Island, North Carolina, said he had ridden out many storms and that most locals were planning to stay unless Florence took aim at Hatteras.

“If it decides to come here, we’re gone,” he said.

Residents prepared by boarding up their homes and stripping grocery stores bare of food, water and supplies. Some gas stations also ran low on fuel.

“This is still a very dangerous storm,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said at a Tuesday news conference. “We are in a very deadly and important game of chess with Hurricane Florence.”

McMaster lifted an earlier evacuation order for parts of three southern coastal counties but left them in effect for the state’s northern coast and urged residents to flee.

Wall Street was sniffing out companies that could gain or lose at the storm’s hands. Generator maker Generac Holdings Inc rose 2.2 percent and reached its highest price since April 2014.

Insurers Allstate Corp and Travelers Companies Inc were up slightly in early trade after falling sharply on Monday on worries about claims losses.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah said all nuclear power plants in the area were preparing but that Duke Energy Corp’s Brunswick and Harris plants in North Carolina were most likely to be affected and, if Florence turns north, Dominion Energy Inc’s Surry plant in Virginia.

Plants in the storm’s path are shut down about 12 hours in advance of being hit.

(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, Liz Hampton in Houston, Susan Heavey in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Alden Bentley in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Zieminski and Bill Trott; Editing by Scott Malone)

Hurricane Florence set for ‘direct hit’ on U.S. east coast

Trent Bullard fills gas containers for his generator ahead of Hurricane Florence in Pembroke, North Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Anna Driver

By Anna Driver

HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (Reuters) – More than 1 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes along the U.S. southeast coast as Hurricane Florence, the most powerful storm to threaten the Carolinas in nearly three decades, barreled closer on Tuesday.

Florence, a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 miles per hour (210 kph), was expected to make landfall on Friday, most likely in North Carolina near the South Carolina border, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for both North Carolina and South Carolina, freeing up federal money and resources for storm response.

“This storm is not going to be a glancing blow. This storm is going to be a direct hit on our coast,” said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We are planning for devastation.”

The slow-moving storm was about 905 miles (1,455 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 11 a.m. EDT, according to the NHC, which warned the storm was expected to strengthen with life-threatening storm surge possible along the coasts of North and South Carolina.

Residents boarded up their homes and stripped grocery stores bare of food, water and supplies. The South Carolina Highway Patrol sent “flush cars” eastbound on major highways to clear traffic before reversing lanes on major roadways to speed the evacuation.

“This is still a very dangerous storm. We must take it very seriously,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said at a Tuesday news conference. “We are in a very deadly and important game of chess with Hurricane Florence.”

McMaster lifted an earlier evacuation order for parts of three southern coastal counties – Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton – but left them in effect for the state’s northern coast and urged residents to flee.

Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said classes would be canceled after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, joining other colleges in the state making similar plans.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze departs Naval Station Norfolk to ride out the storm in the Atlantic Ocean ahead of Hurricane Florence, in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Handout via REUTERS

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze departs Naval Station Norfolk to ride out the storm in the Atlantic Ocean ahead of Hurricane Florence, in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Handout via REUTERS

12-FOOT STORM SURGE

In addition to flooding the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 12 feet (3.7 m), Florence could drop 20 inches to as much as 30 inches (51 cm to 76 cm) of rain in places, posing the risk of deadly flooding miles inland, forecasters said. They warned the storm could linger for days after making landfall.

Wall Street was sniffing out companies that could gain or lose at the storm’s hands. Generator maker Generac Holdings Inc rose 2.2 percent and reached its highest price since April 2014.

Insurers Allstate Corp and Travelers Companies Inc were up slightly in early trade after falling sharply on Monday on worries about claims losses.

At least 250,000 more people were due to be evacuated from the northern Outer Banks barrier islands in North Carolina on Tuesday.

Vance McGougan, 57, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and his family did not wait for the noon deadline to evacuate a rented house at Holden Beach, about two hours away.

“We had already decided … that it was prudent for us to get on the road,” McGougan said.

Two years ago, when Hurricane Matthew crossed Fayetteville, McGougan said his house was without power for five days.

Classified as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Florence is the most severe storm to threaten the U.S. mainland this year.

The United States was hit with a series of high-powered hurricanes last year, including Hurricane Maria, which killed some 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Harvey, which killed about 68 people and caused an estimated $1.25 billion in damage with catastrophic flooding in Houston.

(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, Liz Hampton in Houston, Susan Heavey in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Alden Bentley in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

Hurricane Florence nears Carolinas, forcing 1.5 million in westward exodus

Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station as it churns in the Atlantic Ocean towards the east coast of the United States, September 10, 2018. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Anna Driver

HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (Reuters) – More than 1.5 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes along the U.S. southeast coast as Hurricane Florence, the most powerful to menace the Carolinas in nearly three decades, barreled closer on Tuesday.

Florence, a Category 4 storm packing winds of 130 miles per hour (210 kph), was expected to make landfall on Friday, most likely in southeastern North Carolina near the South Carolina border, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for both North Carolina and South Carolina, a step that frees up federal money and resources for storm response.

Empty shelves are seen at a supermarket as residents prepare for Storm Florence's descent in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., September 10, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. @missgil/via REUTERS

Empty shelves are seen at a supermarket as residents prepare for Storm Florence’s descent in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., September 10, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. @missgil/via REUTERS

Residents boarded up their homes and stripped grocery stores bare of food, water and supplies. The South Carolina Highway Patrol sent “flush cars” eastbound on major highways to clear traffic, before reversing lanes on major roadways to speed the evacuation of the coast, state officials said on Twitter.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered about 1 million residents along his state’s coastline to leave starting at noon on Tuesday, when the highways will become westbound only. He evoked the memory of 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, which killed 27 people in the state, in urging people to comply.

“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” McMaster told ABC’s “Good Morning America” TV show on Tuesday. “We want people to get out and get safe.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an evacuation order for about 245,000 residents in flood-prone coastal areas beginning at 8 a.m. local time.

GENERATOR, HOME REPAIR STOCKS UP

The storm was located about 950 miles (1,530 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 8 a.m. ET, according to the NHC, which warned it would be “an extremely dangerous major hurricane” through Thursday night.

In addition to flooding the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 12 feet (3.7 m), Florence could drop 20 inches to as much as 30 inches (51 cm to 76 cm) of rain in places, posing the risk of deadly flooding miles inland, forecasters said. They warned the storm could linger for days after making landfall, drenching an already saturated landscape.

Shares of generator maker Generac Holdings Inc rose 3 percent, adding to Monday’s more than 5-percent gain, in expectation that the company will benefit from increased demand as the storm knocks out power for residents in the storm’s path.

Anticipating a rush for home protection and repair materials, investors also pushed up the shares of Home Depot Inc and Lowe’s Cos Inc for the second day.

STAY OR FLEE?

Customers line up to buy propane at Socastee Hardware store, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Customers line up to buy propane at Socastee Hardware store, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

At least 250,000 more people were due to be evacuated from the northern Outer Banks in North Carolina on Tuesday after more than 50,000 people were ordered on Monday to leave Hatteras and Ocracoke, the southernmost of the state’s barrier islands.

“We haven’t plywooded our house for several years but I am for this one,” said Tom Pahl, 66, by phone from Ocracoke Island. Pahl, who serves as a Hyde County commissioner, said he had not yet made up his mind about leaving the island, which is reachable only by ferry and plane.

Retired Maryland State Police pilot Paul Jones and his wife hit the road early on Tuesday to avoid traffic from Hatteras Island to their Maryland residence.

“I will not stay for a hurricane,” Jones, 68, said. “I have had enough excitement in my life.”

Classified as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Florence is the most severe storm to threaten the U.S. mainland this year.

The United States was hit with a series of high-powered hurricanes last year, including Hurricane Maria, which killed some 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Harvey, which killed about 68 people and caused an estimated $1.25 billion in damage with catastrophic flooding in Houston.

(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, Susan Heavey in Washington and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Rigby)