Millions of Americans throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are preparing for Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm that’s expected to bring massive amounts of rainfall, flash flooding and havoc-wreaking winds.
President Trump late Monday approved an emergency declaration for North Carolina, which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts for “the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population,” a White House statement said.
More than a million people were leaving their homes along the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday amid mandatory evacuations, and supply store shelves were quickly emptying in preparation for the once-in-a-generation Hurricane Florence – a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm that’s teetering on the brink of an even higher classification.
The hurricane, which as of 5 a.m. Tuesday was centered about 975 miles east southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, had sustained winds of 140 mph and remained a Category 4 as of early Tuesday morning. Scientists warn, however, the unusually warm waters in the Atlantic could accelerate the storm’s winds to 155 mph – giving it near Category 5 intensity.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says damaging winds and rain could begin hitting the coast late Thursday, pushing a storm surge that could reach 13 feet in places. Rain will continue through Sunday, dumping feet of water over a wide area.
Landfall timing is estimated Friday evening as a major hurricane, possibly Cat 3 or high end Cat 2 with winds between 115-100 mph.
The landfall location is expected to be between Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, over 624 flights had been canceled in the U.S. and 5,580 flights across the globe were delayed, as per live flight-tracking service FlightAware. Additionally, 429 flights scheduled for Thursday had been grounded and 82 flights for Friday were void.
Raleigh–Durham International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport are among the air hubs primarily affected by Florence.
Various carriers have waived fees for flights scheduled to cross the path of the storm. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines are among the major carriers that have waived charges for those traveling through the Southeast through the next week.