Hurricane Florence remained a Category 2 storm on Thursday morning, packing winds of up to 110 miles an hour as the first rains closed in on North Carolina.
The center of the storm was about 205 miles away from Wilmington, N.C., at 5 a.m., with tropical-storm-force winds set to arrive at the coast within hours. The hurricane’s center was expected to cross land early Friday.
Though wind speeds weakened on Wednesday, forecasters warned that the hurricane retained its potential to deliver catastrophic, life-threatening damage. The National Hurricane Center said it was likely to maintain its intensity until it made landfall.
Here are the latest developments:
• Heavy winds are expected along the shore beginning Thursday, with the storm forecast to crawl inland after, drenching a wide area with extremely heavy rains. Both the volume and the geographic extent of those rains are likely to be 50 percent greater than they otherwise would have been because of climate change, according to a team of climate scientists led by researchers at Stony Brook University.
• The major power supplier for North and South Carolina, Duke Energy, warned that the storm could knock out power for up to three million customers across the two states. It could take several weeks to restore electricity to everyone, the company said.Continue reading the main story
• The authorities made last-ditch efforts to get everyone out of harm’s way — “Don’t risk your life riding out a monster,” said Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina — but some hurricane holdouts who have never fled a storm were determined to ignore the warnings. Read why they’re staying put.
• North Carolina lawmakers are facing renewed criticism for a 2012 law that effectively ordered agencies to ignore an increasing rise in sea levels driven by climate change. The law helped allow rapid coastal development to continue. “We were ready to step up to the plate and take a hard look at this long-term problem,” said Stanley Riggs, a retired research professor at East Carolina University. “And we blew it.” Read more about the controversy here.
Trying to roust the hurricane holdouts
Federal, state and local officials, who have already spent days trying to warn people in Florence’s path of the potential severity of the storm, issued some of their most strident pleas yet on Wednesday for people to get out of harm’s way.
“We know a lot of our coastal residents have ridden out storms before,” said Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina during a Wednesday evening news conference. “This should not be one of those storms. Don’t risk your life riding out a monster.”
In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster said that an estimated 300,000 people had already heeded the call to evacuate, and he expected as many as a million to eventually flee Florence’s path, especially as forecasts showed a shift that might increase the flooding impact on his state.
“This is a dangerous storm,” Governor McMaster said. “It is unpredictable.”
Will Haynie, the mayor of Mount Pleasant, S.C., said that residents of his town just off the coast should leave as soon as possible.
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“You have the power to introduce a degree of certainty to this situation, and that is by heeding the evacuation order,” he said. “When you choose to leave and get out of its way, you have more control over your destiny than you do if you choose to stay here.”
A Charleston fixture decides to leave
The former mayor of Charleston, S.C., Joseph P. Riley Jr., who served 10 terms from 1975 to 2016, decided to set a good example for his former constituents by leaving town with his wife, Charlotte.
Many of their neighbors had chosen to stay put, he said, figuring they could tough out a few feet of storm surge. But Mr. Riley, 75, said Wednesday that he and his wife had decided to roll up some of the rugs, put them on the second floor, and get out. There were just too many possibilities that worried him.
“Our children are grown, and they’re squared away,” Mr. Riley said. “And then we have my sister-in-law who lives in Camden. She’s always happy to see us, and it’s nice to visit.”
The current mayor of Charleston, John Tecklenburg, echoed those thoughts, urging people to avoid the heavy rain, wind and flooding expected in his city over the next few days. “It’s going to be a lousy weekend here,” he said, “and it’s going to be a good weekend to be somewhere else.”
Power concerns ahead of the storm
Duke Energy estimated that up to three million could lose power, based on modeling from previous storms as well as Florence’s projected path. That number would be about 75 percent of the company’s more than four million customers in North and South Carolina.
“People could be without power for a very long time,” said David Fountain, president of Duke Energy North Carolina.
The company said that about 20,000 workers were ready to respond after the storm, including 1,700 additional Duke workers from the Midwest, 1,200 from Florida and 9,400 workers from other utilities as far away as Texas.
The company said it was also monitoring its Brunswick nuclear plant near Wilmington, N.C., which could face hurricane-force wind, significant storm surge and rain. At Brunswick and several other plants, workers were securing loose debris and inspecting equipment in anticipation of Florence’s arrival.Continue reading the main story