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‘Don’t play games with it’: Florence takes aim at Southeast

  • Sarah Dankanich, right, removes an "out of service" wrapper from a gas pump as her husband, Bryan Dankanich, left, prepares to pump gas in cans in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) Chuck Burton

  • As store windows are prepped with plywood a couple waits for their automobile in Nags Head, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast of the Carolinas. The National Weather Service says Hurricane Florence "will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast." (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Gerry Broome

  • FILE- In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, file photo a man walks out of the boarded up Robert's Grocery in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., in preparation for Hurricane Florence. Though it’s far from clear how much economic havoc Hurricane Florence will inflict on the southeastern coast, from South Carolina through Virginia, the damage won’t be easily or quickly overcome. In those states, critically important industries like tourism and agriculture are sure to suffer. “These storms can be very disruptive to regional economies, and it takes time for them to recover,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. (Matt Born/The Star-News via AP, File) Matt Born

  • Adam Bazemore uses his foot to pack down sandbags in a doorway, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in the Willoughby Spit area of Norfolk, Va., as he makes preparations for Hurricane Florence. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon

  • FILE- In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, photo crews board up the Oceanic restaurant in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., in preparation for Hurricane Florence. Though it’s far from clear how much economic havoc Hurricane Florence will inflict on the southeastern coast, from South Carolina through Virginia, the damage won’t be easily or quickly overcome. In those states, critically important industries like tourism and agriculture are sure to suffer. “These storms can be very disruptive to regional economies, and it takes time for them to recover,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. (Matt Born/The Star-News via AP, File) Matt Born

  • Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station on Wednesday as it threatens the U.S. East Coast. Hurricane Florence is coming closer and getting stronger on a path to squat over North and South Carolina for days, surging over the coast, dumping feet of water deep inland and causing floods from the sea to the Appalachian Mountains and back again. Courtesy of NASA

  • Sarah Dankanich, right, removes an "out of service" wrapper from a gas pump as her husband prepares to pump gas in cans in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) Chuck Burton

  • FILE- In this Sept. 11, 2018, file photo Ashley DeGroote, left, and husband Jeff DeGroote remove the awning at South End Surf Shop in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., in preparation for Hurricane Florence. Though it’s far from clear how much economic havoc Hurricane Florence will inflict on the southeastern coast, from South Carolina through Virginia, the damage won’t be easily or quickly overcome. In those states, critically important industries like tourism and agriculture are sure to suffer. “These storms can be very disruptive to regional economies, and it takes time for them to recover,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. (Matt Born/The Star-News via AP, File) Matt Born

  • People line up outside a Home Depot for a new supply of generators and plywood in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) Chuck Burton

  • The bronze statue of Neptune stands with the sunrise behind, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in Virginia Beach, Va., as Hurricane Florence moves towards eastern shore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon

  • Andrew Lingle walks along the beach at sunrise as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Rob Muller boards up his home as a satellite image of Hurricane Florence is broadcast on a television inside in Morehead City, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Gloria Pittman loads a box of bottled water into her grocery cart Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, while shopping for hurricane related supplies at Fred's Food Club in Rocky Mount, N.C. (Alan Campbell/Rocky Mount Telegram via AP) ALAN CAMPBELL/ROCKY MOUNT TELEGRAM

  • Emmett West pulls his boat from a nearby marina to secure it at his home ahead Hurricane Florence in Morehead City, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Larry Lynch selects a can of Armour Vienna Bites while grocery shopping in preparation for Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, at the Piggly Wiggly store on West Thomas Street in Rocky Mount, N.C. (Alan Campbell/Rocky Mount Telegram via AP) ALAN CAMPBELL/ROCKY MOUNT TELEGRAM



Associated Press
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

People who thought they were relatively safe from the onslaught of Hurricane Florence began boarding up and Georgia’s governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday as uncertainty over the path of the monster storm spread worry along the Southeastern coast.

Closing in with terrifying winds of 125 mph and potentially catastrophic rain and storm surge, Florence is expected to blow ashore Saturday morning along the North Carolina-South Carolina line, the National Hurricane Center said.

While some of the computer forecasting models conflicted, the latest projections more or less showed the storm shifting southward and westward in a way that suddenly put more of South Carolina in danger and imperiled Georgia, too.

At the White House, President Donald Trump urged people to “get out of its way.”

“Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one,” he said.

With the change in the forecast, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued an emergency declaration for the entire state to ease regulations on trucks hauling gasoline and relief supplies, and asked people to pray for those in Florence’s path. North and South Carolina and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week.

The shift in the projected track had areas that once thought they were out of range worried. In South Carolina, Beaufort County Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case.

“We’ve had our lessons. Now it might be time for the exam,” Baxley said late in the morning.

As of 2 p.m., the Category 3 storm was centered 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, moving at 16 mph, with the potential for 1 to 3 feet of rain in places – enough to touch off catastrophic flooding inland and an environmental disaster, too, if the water inundates the region’s many industrial waste sites and hog manure ponds.

The hurricane center’s projected track had Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast starting Thursday night before finally blowing ashore. That could punish a longer stretch of coastline, and for a longer period of time, than previously thought.

The trend is “exceptionally bad news,” said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it “smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge.”

If some of the computer projections hold, “it’s going to come roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say, ‘I’m not sure I really want to do this, and I’ll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland,’ ” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground forecasting service.

As of Tuesday, about 1.7 million people in North and South Carolina and Virginia were under warnings to evacuate the coast, and hurricane watches and warnings extended across an area with about 5.4 million residents. Cars and trucks full of people and belongings streamed inland.

“This is not going to be a glancing blow,” warned Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”

Florence could strengthen some over open water and then weaken as it nears land, but the difference won’t make it any less dangerous, forecaster Stacy Stewart wrote in a National Hurricane Center discussion.

With South Carolina’s beach towns more in the bull’s-eye because of the shifting forecast, Ohio vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand. Most other beachgoers were long done.

“It’s been really nice,” Nicole Roland said. “Also, a little creepy. You feel like you should have already left.”

For many of those under evacuation orders, getting out of harm’s way has proved difficult, as airlines canceled flights and motorists had a hard time finding gas.

Michelle Stober loaded up valuables at her home on Wrightsville Beach to drive back to her primary residence in Cary, N.C.

“This morning I drove around for about an hour looking for a place to get gas in Cary. Everyone was sold out,” she said.