Hurricane Florence rolls further south into the US on Thursday, bringing with it thundering winds, heavy rains and the threat of "catastrophic" floods. The great and dangerous storm is expected to crash into the Carolinas coastline, affecting millions in terms of footfall, not inches, warnings of flash floods, and the potential for longer power outages.
12:45 clock: Governor of North Carolina warns the residents: "Do not relax"
The governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper (D), wanted to remind people in his state Thursday that he had not been left in bad repose because the wind speed of the storm had shifted south and warned that Florence was still a deadly one Threat to the inhabitants.
"Do not relax," he said at a meeting. "Do not make yourself complacent, stay alert, this is a powerful storm that can kill, today the threat becomes reality."
Cooper spoke as the first bands from Florence began whipping the Outer Banks and elsewhere. He described a "massive storm" that he said would spread heavy rains across the state in the coming days. Even if the storm lands in South Carolina, he said, "We're on the wrong side of this, this storm will destroy North Carolina."
Cooper pointed to the history of the state with Hurricane Matthew, a devastating storm that marched along the coast, causing severe flooding in North Carolina.
"Remember, Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina did not even go ashore and see what he did to us," he said.
The storm has disrupted much of North Carolina's life and closed dozens of school districts and almost all schools in the University of North Carolina system, officials said. Cooper said that around 7,000 people in the state have led 108 open shelters, with more facilities to follow.
– Mark Berman
12:25 clock: A view of Hurricane Florence from space
11:52 clock: despite evacuation order remain
MYRTLE BEACH, S. C. – Most of the hotels along Ocean Boulevard on the waterfront are closed and some are boarded up. But some nearby residents have decided, despite the governor's binding evacuation order and warnings, that there will be no help in these evacuation zones once the storm begins.
Staying is a necessity, said neighbors Kathy Sexton and Kelly Britt, both living in two-story townhouses a few blocks off Ocean Boulevard.
"I'm staying for my job, I'm in the medical field," said Britt, 50, a medical secretary at an emergency clinic. She said she plans to work on Saturday and she has to be prepared to go to work when the clinic is open.
Sexton, 56, said she had thought about staying with relatives living six hours away, but the long drive would hurt her older mother, whose damaged back prevents her from sitting for long periods of time. She had booked a hotel further inland, she said, but she could not afford the expenses. She would have stayed in one of the shelters, but pets are not allowed there, she said. Sexton has two 15-year-old cats who both need medication, and she said there's no room to board. Even if there was one, she did not trust anyone else to take care of her.
"They are like a family, there is no way," she said. Like others who have decided to stay, the two neighbors do not believe the storm will be as catastrophic as the news says. National news, they say, seems to have flooded it.
– Kristine Phillips
11:28 am: Florence begins to whip North Carolina
The center of Hurricane Florence is still well on the coast, but the impact of the storm is already felt in North Carolina.
"Heavy" rain gangs with tropical storm winds have "spread across the Outer Banks and the North Carolina cost," according to the National Hurricane Center. In a late-morning update, the hurricane center said the storm was about 145 miles from Wilmington, N.C. away, around 11 o'clock.
While Florence has been downgraded from category 4 to category 2, this measurement is all about wind speed – and water is a much bigger danger. Storm surges and floods are the leading causes of hurricane deaths in the United States. Predictions warned that Florence was still capable of producing a dangerous tidal wave, potentially raising water up to 13 feet in parts of North Carolina and dropping more than three feet of rain in parts of the Carolinas.
In the Outer Banks on Thursday morning seawater could be washed ashore and streets flooded.
The center of the storm is due to approach the shores of Carolinas later on Thursday.
– Mark Berman
10:55 am: waiting for Florence
WILMINGTON, N.C. – It's a day of waiting along the North Carolina coast, with cloudy skies and a rising breeze warning Hurricane Florence along the way. At eight o'clock in the morning, people were out in one of New Hanover County's five shelters, smoking and watching the weather, trying to control their anticipation and fears.
"I guess it's the unknown about what's going to happen," said Jack Ashby Jr., 60, of Wilmington. He sat in front of Trask Middle School and plans to spend his day with friends and playing cards. His home is old and he worries about flooding. "I'd rather sleep in my own bed, if you know what I mean."
He was alone, but Shannon Soto, 42, took her three teenagers and their two-week-old grandson, who was born too early, out of their caravan.
"He's probably the youngest in there," she said. "He only cries because he wants to be held constantly, between him and the storm … nobody will sleep tonight."
Richard L. Ford, 34, has seen hurricanes before, even though he lives in Denver. He works "in the tree trade," he said and cleared wood after storms. He found Jobs after Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Hurricane Irma in Florida and hopes for a similar payday in North Carolina, where he stays with his aunt until she decides to evacuate.
"I'm not worried at all," he said, inhaling a draft from his cigarette. "I find it funny that the storm of hysteria is greater than the storm itself."
– Patricia Sullivan
10:40 am: "The water is the devil"
TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. – For Virginia Ward, who runs the shops for the Island's Crab Shack Restaurant, the storm is scary, even with her meditation.
"I'm worried because it cost $ 40,000 to bring my lodge up after Hurricane Irma," said Ward, 73. Last year's storm threw over two and a half feet of water into her cottage.
Ward does not work. She said she knows when it's time to evacuate Tybee Island when there's a hurricane – she evacuated once for Hurricane David in 1975 – and that's not one of them.
"The water is the devil," she said about hurricane damage and storm surges. "I'm not foolhardy, but I will not run if someone mentions a hurricane for the first time."
Jack Flanigan, the co-owner of the restaurant, shrugged when asked about Florence and said the storm was unremarkable.
"People living on Tybee Island do not evacuate too quickly," Flanigan said, 85. "Evacuation is a chore."
Tybee Island is a barrier island and small town near Savannah. It is known for its wide sandy beaches, including South Beach, with a pier and gazebo. The north of the island is home to Fort Screven with its 19th century concrete batteries and the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum. The lighthouse from the 18th century, which still works, has been rebuilt several times.
– Sharon Dunten
10:15 am: One last day surfing before the storm
9:30 am: A regular coffee break and worries about the floods
KINSTON, N.C. – The McDonald's on Main Street was bustling here on Wednesday as travelers from the coast drove inland through this small town on their way inland. But early Thursday morning Mack Lewis was the only one at a table.
He comes to McDonald's every day, and it was too early to tell how Hurricane Florence would break his regular coffee break. Lewis, a retired electrician, said the storm was not the main concern for Kinston. It is the floods that, days, even a week later, cause the greatest devastation in a city that has to wait for the nearby Neuse River to rise.
From the town's barbeque pub, King's Restaurant, to a family-run business a few miles away, Lewis said business people have some weight when they pack their things, wipe the mud off their floors and tear down the plasterboard ceiling "I never thought I would be back to do this again."
But Lewis said that many in Kinston have no choice. Older companies and older residents can not go anywhere. The economy is struggling in one place with "more houses than businesses." "It's almost a struggle to keep going the way things are," said Lewis.
Hours before Florence was expected to whip the coast, Lewis was in no hurry to leave his stall. He lives alone, but he was not afraid to engage in the storm. He gave the only generator he has his granddaughter. And he said the damage in Kinston would still not be as bad as the devastation that continues one year after the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Texas.
"Best-case scenario, it'll take a few weeks to get back to normal," said Lewis. At the counter, a young man grabbed his shopping bag and thanked the cashier.
"Be sure, mate," he said as he turned away.
"You too," the cashier answered.
– Rachel Siegel
8.30: Florence could park off the coast, which would be "not good"
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Forecasters warn that when Hurricane Florence approaches land, it could shift into a low gear and then unpredictably meander along the coast, sucking energy from the warm ocean while plundering coastal communities.
Florence might be able to migrate to South Carolina while remaining just off the coast as if she was looking for a port. A long stretch of the Carolinas remains in the "cone of uncertainty" of the storm track, and experts warn that additional hazards will be caused by a storm that lingers in an area for long periods of time.
"It could sit there just off the coast for a day as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane," said Brian McNoldy, senior research associate at the University of Miami's Maritime and Atmospheric Sciences Rosenstiel School and Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang staff , "That would not be good – if it gets close to the coast and only reaches the coast or just inland, but then just sits there, it's like a break at the fiercest part of the landing place."
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