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Hurricane Florence hits the Eastern U.S.

CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. — The fire department in Carolina Beach was sounding one final alarm Wednesday, urging residents to evacuate the island before Hurricane Florence makes landfall.

They passed right by Dolly Whittington’s house, but she said she’s not leaving.

“We have been in some other hurricanes, we’re not trying to be heroic or anything like that, but we feel like we have just as good a chance here as we would in town,” she said.

By in town, she means Wilmington, which is 13 miles away, across the Snow’s Cut Bridge that will be shut down once winds reach 45 mph. That would leave people like Whittington essentially cut off.

Whittington is aware of a potentially 13-foot storm surge that’s predicted to hit Carolina Beach before, during and after Florence makes landfall, battering and inundating low-lying homes with water. Storm surge occurs when the force of hurricane winds push ocean water ashore.

It has Hanover County Commissioner Woody White very worried: “As you know most loss of life and threats to life are from the surge,” he said.

Hurricane Florence fast facts:

  • Hurricane Florence, a Category 2 storm, has started lashing North Carolina, with tropical storm-force winds carrying drenching bands of rainfall onto some beach communities
  • Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from Florence’s center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles, National Hurricane Center (NHC) says
  • The storm is centered about 100 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 155 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 5 mph with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, according to NHC’s 5 p.m. ET advisory
  • Forecasters don’t expect the storm to strengthen before it moves ashore, but they say the real problem will be water as it lingers along the coast through Saturday
  • Nearly 1,500 flights canceled through Saturday; Duke Energy anticipates 1 million to 3 million homes and businesses losing power
  • 1.7 million people are under mandatory and voluntary evacuations orders, and more than 10 million people live in places currently under storm watches or warnings

Florence is a Category 2 storm — a rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The scale includes five categories and is based on the storm’s sustained wind speeds. It also estimates possible damage to property, ranging from “some damage” to “catastrophic.”

If a storm is a Category 3, 4 or 5, it is deemed a “major” hurricane due to the potential for “significant loss of life and damage,” the National Hurricane Center says. Hurricanes that fall into categories 1 or 2 are still considered dangerous, the center says. In the case of Hurricane Florence, meteorologists emphasize that its greatest threat will come from storm surge and flooding, not the wind.

Here is how the scale breaks down, according to the National Hurricane Center:

Category 5 (major hurricane)

Sustained wind speed: 157 mph or higher

  • Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Category 4 (major hurricane)

Sustained wind speed: 130-156 mph

  • “Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Category 3 (major hurricane)

Sustained wind speed: 111-129 mph

  • “Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.”

Category 2

Sustained wind speed: 96-110 mph

  •  “Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.”

Category 1

Sustained wind speed: 74-95 mph

  • “Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.”

Last year, in the midst of an unusually ferocious string of hurricanes, there was some speculation about whether storms could hit a Category 6. There is officially no such thing as a Category 6 hurricane. But the idea of revising or adding to the scale has reportedly been discussed by some climate scientists who believe the current categories may not be adequate for increasingly extreme storms in the future.

CBS News

CBS News

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