Hurricane Florence’s plodding approach to landfall is nearly complete.
Despite being downgraded again late Thursday night, this time to a Category 1 storm, Florence is projected to bring “hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surge” when it crashes ashore within hours, according to the National Weather Service.
Florence spent Thursday crawling toward the Carolina coast at 5 to 6 mph – hardly faster than the average person’s walking speed of 3.1 mph – but the storm’s relentless rain had already resulted in serious flooding in low-lying areas and its gusting winds knocked out power for thousands of people in North Carolina.
There were water rescues underway in New Bern early Friday morning, the city shared on Twitter.
Don’t be fooled by Florence’s Category 1 status, either, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said Thursday night.
“Focus that this storm is here to stay,” the waterlogged Van Dam said during a live broadcast.
Here’s the latest on what the weather service has called the “storm of a lifetime” for the Carolinas:
Where is Florence now?
As of 1 a.m. EST, Florence was 45 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina – which figures to take the brunt of the hurricane’s punch – according to the weather service.
When and where will it make landfall?
Soon, and likely near the North Carolina-South Carolina border. From there, Florence will make an inland crawl, dumping a deluge of rain that the weather service has said “will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.”
How much will it rain?
A lot. And for days. In a video briefing, NWS meteorologist Brandon Locklear said North Carolina could see the equivalent of eight monthsof rain in the span of two or three days.
What’s the biggest concern?
It’s the storm surge, or the rising of the sea level, that pushes water ashore and leads to flooding. The forecast for Florence includes storm surge up to 11 feet in some areas. During CNN’s live coverage Thursday night, storm chaser Mike Scantlin said, “Water kills more people than every other weather phenomenon – combined.”
How strong are the winds?
Florence had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, according to the weather service’s 1 a.m. EST update. The strongest reported wind gust on Thursday, 92 mph, was recorded at a Weatherflow station in Fort Macon, North Carolina.
How many people are without power?
Extreme winds mean power outages. As of 2:20 a.m. EST, North Carolina Emergency Management had reported 185,312 statewide power outages — and that’s even before Florence made landfall. For updates, go online to www.ncdps.gov/florence.
A wind-beaten American flag is still hanging onto The Frying Pan Tower that’s located 34 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Here’s a last look before dark as Hurricane Florence nears landfall.
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