Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday morning, bringing torrential rain and wind to the Eastern Seaboard. Preceded by perilous storm surge and flooding up to several feet in coastal towns, the storm’s eye ran ashore at 7:15am just east of Wilmington, North Carolina. With sustained winds of up to 90 mph, the hurricane is expected to move slowly into South Carolina and westward through Friday before turning north early Saturday.
Although downgraded to a Category 1 on late Thursday night, Florence is still expected to inflict severe damage; the category system is solely based on wind speed, and does not factor in other potential dangers like high storm surge, heavy rain, and flooding. Additionally, as wind speeds lessen, rainfall totals are predicted to rise, and tornadoes and waterspouts are possible. Often crawling under five mph, Florence could batter the Carolinas for days and leave a lasting and destructive impact.
“Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) noted during a briefing. “It’s an uninvited brute who doesn’t want to leave.”
This is already being realized. In New Bern, North Carolina, emergency rescue teams struggled to reach hundreds of residents trapped in cars, on roofs, and in attics after the Neuse River overflowed and flooded the city. As of Friday morning, 200 people have been rescued, but 150 people remain stranded.
“Every road is flooded. There’s nowhere to get out over here,” Tanya Moore, a New Bern resident, told NBC News. Although her home had yet to be flooded, she was informed by officials that her area could experience up to 30 feet of water. As of Friday morning, she and her family were still awaiting rescue.
New Bern had been under mandatory evacuation orders since Tuesday, but, like Moore, some residents chose not to leave. While over 26,000 evacuees had taken residence in over 200 shelters across both Carolinas in anticipation of the hurricane, many still chose to stay put. Residents across the Carolinian coastline opted to board up their homes and stock up on enough canned goods to weather out the storm. A few thousand locals of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a low-lying chain of islands just off of the state’s eastern coast, were among them. For some, like Jimmy and Ellen Louise Williams, the process of evacuating seemed fruitless.
“We couldn’t figure any place to go even if we evacuated,” Ellen Louise said in an interview with Greenview News. “There’s nowhere to go. If we leave, it might be two weeks before we can get back to know what’s happening to our house. That’s too long.”
The residents of the Outer Banks were spared the worst of the hurricane, as it made landfall further south than anticipated. Although Emergency Medical Services were suspended and the main connector of the islands was closed overnight, damage was negligible.
While some areas have been spared of the immediate effects of the storm, many, like New Bern, remain in a state of disaster. Heading into the weekend, over 600,000 customers remain without electricity across the Carolinas, and the Weather Channel estimates that this number could rise to upwards of three million. As of Friday afternoon, four deaths have been reported, and this is expected to rise as Florence persists.
Sources and Further Reading:
Hurricane Florence Live Updates: First Deaths Reported in North Carolina – The New York Times
Outer Banks “dodged a bullet” with Hurricane Florence – The Virginian Pilot