(UPI) — Projections for Hurricane Florence are becoming more serious as the Category 4 storm approaches the East Coast, with forecasters saying Wednesday it could be the “storm of a lifetime” when it arrives.
The National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. advisory Florence will move west-northwestward between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday. It will then slow considerably while strengthening off the U.S. coast, and produce extremely dangerous conditions in its path. The storm will most likely strike the coast of North Carolina or South Carolina by late Thursday.
The NHC said an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft found that “Florence has changed little”, and predicted “life-threatening storm surge and rainfall” across coastal regions of the Carolinas.
As of 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday, the eye of the storm was about 485 miles miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C., and 520 miles east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, S.C. It was moving west-northwest at 15 mph and recorded maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, the NHC said.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., said the hurricane is looking like a major event.
“This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast,” it said early Wednesday. “And that`s saying a lot given the impacts we’ve seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd and Matthew.”
“I can`t emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm,” one NWS forecaster said.
A hurricane warning was in effect from the South Santee River, S.C., to Duck, N.C., and in the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. A hurricane watch was issued for Edisto Beach, S.C., to the South Santee River.
A tropical storm warning, indicating the expectation of conditions below hurricane-strength winds, is issued for coastal areas north of the Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, Va., and in Chesapeake Bay, south of New Point Comfort, Va.
A storm surge warning, with anticipation of life-threatening inundation of rising water on the coast within the next 36 hours, is in effect for the South Santee River, S.C., to Duck, N.C., including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers at the Abemarle and Pamlico Sounds. A storm surge warning was called for the coast between Edisto Beach, S.C., and the South Santee River, and the coast north of Duck, N.C., to North Carolina’s northern border.
“Florence is expected to slow down considerably by late Thursday into Friday, and move through early Saturday,” the NHC said.
Florence is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 20 to 30 inches along the North Carolina coast — and possibly 40 inches in some spots.
“This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding,” the NHC said.
South Carolina is expected to see as many as 20 inches in some locations.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the NHC added, also saying the storm could produce tornadoes in eastern North Carolina early Thursday.
President Donald Trump has approved requests for emergency declarations in the Carolinas, which will trigger federal assistance to both states.
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