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Storm Florence: Worst still to come, authorities warn

  • 16 September 2018
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Media captionGusts & floods: the impact of the storm

There are warnings the worst is still to come from a storm in the US that has already been linked to the deaths of at least 12 people.

Storm Florence has been dumping what has been called “epic” rain as it moves through North and South Carolina.

The volume of rain will cause “catastrophic” flash flooding, the US National Hurricane Center says.

The slow-moving storm is heading west, but on Sunday it is due to turn north towards Ohio.

What are the warnings?

Florence, which started out as a hurricane, has now weakened to a depression, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Sunday, but flash flooding and river floods will continue over a significant portion of the Carolinas.

“This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Saturday.

Authorities in the North Carolina city of Fayetteville ordered residents living near two rivers to evacuate with record flooding expected.

“If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible,” Mayor Mitch Colvin said.

“The worst is yet to come,” he added.

US President Donald Trump has declared a disaster in eight counties in North Carolina – a move that will help free up federal funding for recovery efforts.

What do we know of the victims?

Twelve people have died as a result of the storm, US media say. Most of the deaths came in North Carolina.

Among the dead are a mother and her seven-month baby, who were were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday.

A 71-year-old man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his dogs, while in South Carolina two died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator inside their home.

What has the damage been?

Florence first landed in North Carolina as a category one hurricane. Thousands sought refuge in shelters.

The storm has lost strength as it moves inland but it has knocked out power for 800,000 businesses and homes in the Carolinas.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Residents are being warned against returning home amid the dangers of floods

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption It could be weeks before river levels return to normal

The coast guard and volunteer boats have been helping people left stricken by rising flood waters.

Scores of residents had to be rescued from flooding by emergency responders and volunteers in New Bern, North Carolina, on Saturday.

A local, Charles Rucker, told AFP: “It was like a bullet train coming through the living room. Nothing I ever experienced before, I was truly scared.”

Despite the risks, some have reportedly been driving home across flooded roads.

“Just turn around and don’t drown,” the Federal Emergency Management Authority said.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world’s deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane – in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific – or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

“Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma’s eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale – other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $ 71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

“For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

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