Hurricane Florence has downgraded to a Category 2 storm with sustained winds dropping from 130 mph to 110 mph. However, flooding is still expected to be life threatening, keeping most evacuations and preparation efforts intact.
Evacuation routes and regulation exemptions
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a regional emergency declaration for areas affected by Hurricane Florence, which include Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the emergency in the affected states and jurisdictions in direct support of relief efforts related to Hurricane Florence are granted emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations.
In South Carolina, lane reversals for evacuation routes have been lifted. All lane reversals will go back to normal on Thursday, Sept. 13, with the U.S. 501 reversal ending at noon and the Interstate 26 reversal ending at 6 p.m. The South Carolina Department of Transportation encourages motorists to call 855-GO-SCDOT (855-467-2368) for assistance with evacuation routes. Those routes can be found here.
Evacuation orders in coastal communities in North Carolina and Virginia remain. Both states have lifted temporary lane closures on major routes. Toll suspensions on Interstate 64 remain intact in Virginia. Information regarding North Carolina evacuation routes can be found here. Click here for information about Virginia hurricane preparedness.
Several days of rain, flooding expected
Landfall is expected to strike southeastern North Carolina on Friday, Sept. 14, sometime around midday or afternoon. Coastal areas will feel the effects sooner as the storm closes in. Forecasts show that Florence will likely remain a Category 1 or 2 hurricane when it reaches land.
The downgrading of the storm does not change the overall impact of Florence. Jonathan Porter, meteorologist and vice president of business services at AccuWeather, told Land Line that when it comes to hurricanes, it is all about the combined effects, not necessarily the categorical strength.
The unusually large size of the storm coupled with the fact that a high pressure system will stall Florence over the Carolinas will likely cause dangerous flooding.
“The impacts are still going to be very significant over a broad area of the Carolinas and eventually expanding up into parts of the Appalachians as the moisture from the system lifts northward early next week,” Porter said.
Significant storm surges at the coastline will likely lead to an inundation of homes and businesses, up to 10-15 feet. However, it is rain and flooding that will cause most of the damage.
Florence is unlike most Carolina hurricanes. Typically, hurricanes this far north either make direct landfall and quickly move out or the storm system merely grazes the coastline before moving back out to sea. However, not only is Florence making direct impact and sticking around rather than moving, but the large size will affect more areas than usual.
Editor's note: The Frying Pan live video feed from Explore.org failed overnight. Stream is currently showing highlights from the camera, which are obviously not from Hurricane Florence.
Porter expects anywhere from 8 to 32 inches of rain across eastern North Carolina to northeastern South Carolina, with 16-32 inches in the hardest hit areas. Up to 40 inches of rain can fall in isolated areas. Wind gusts can potentially reach more than 100 mph near the coasts, with Raleigh and Charlotte possibly getting gust of more than 50 mph.
With a storm this large lingering in the same area, Porter expects infrastructure damage and an economic impact that could range from $30 billion to $50 billion.
“Roads and rails will have the potential to be inundated with water for a significant amount of time, and some infrastructure may be significantly damaged or, in some cases, washed away, depending upon the exact rainfall amounts and how the flooding evolves,” Porter said.
Residents and travelers in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia should also be on high alert. Florence will potentially move northward with tropical storm moisture sometime early to middle next week.
Porter also wants truckers in Texas to be on high alert for possible flooding. He says the Gulf Coast area in eastern and southern Texas has been wet recently. Through the weekend, a tropical system may develop in the Gulf. Areas from Houston to Brownsville may get up to 4-8 inches of rain. Corpus Christie may get 8-12 inches.
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