Residents along a large swathe of the US coastline have fled their homes as forecasters warned Hurricane Florence could stay just offshore for days before pushing inland. The National Hurricane Center’s projected track has Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast from Thursday night until landfall on Saturday morning.
The track also shifted south and west, putting Georgia at risk as Florence moves inland. The overall trend is “exceptionally bad news”, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. As of 11am local time, the storm was centred 485 miles south east of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 15mph.It is a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm with 130mph maximum sustained winds.
Some strengthening is forecast through Wednesday night, drawing energy from the warm water. Its winds could approach Category 5 strength, which means winds of 157mph or higher.“This is not going to be a glancing blow,” Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned. “This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”
While some said they planned to stay put despite hurricane watches and warnings extending over the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the east coast, many were not taking any chances.Steady streams of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland on Tuesday as North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone on North Carolina’s coast to flee.“The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”