Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the Carolinas on Friday, says the National Hurricane Center, but tropical force winds are expected to show up late Wednesday or Thursday morning.
"Category 4 means damaging winds, and a storm surge- which is this mound of ocean water rushing in- a storm surge over ten feet", said hurricane expert Thomas Galarneau of The University of Arizona. Its winds could approach Category 5 strength, which means winds of 157 miles per hour (253 kph) or higher.
Hurricane Watch remains in effect for Charleston and Berkeley Counties, as well as for Charleston Harbor and the nearshore waters adjacent the Charleston County coast Storm Surge Watch remains in effect from Edisto Beach north to South Santee River and Tidal Berkeley County. And then from there, it's going across the area meaning a big flooding threat is in the forecast.
The storm surge warning issued by the National Hurricane Center extends from the South Santee River in SC to Duck, on North Carolina's barrier islands known as the Outer Banks.
At 5 a.m., the storm was centered 575 miles (925 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph (28 kph). "If we try to leave, we'll just get stuck in the rain", she said.
Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic. As the storm moves inland, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland will also be in peril. "Now it might be time for the exam", Baxley said late in the morning.
After Florence makes landfall, that ridge, now over Washington and NY, will move east - but be replaced by another one forming over the Great Lakes that will likely keep the storm stuck, McNoldy said.More news: 9 killed after SUV plows into crowd in central China
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"We will experience power outages, we will have infrastructure damaged, there will be homes damaged, and there will be debris on the roads", said Jeff Byard, an official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Catastrophic floods could follow if the storm stalls inland, it said.
A total of 15-20 inches of rain is expected, with isolated areas of up to 30 inches in parts of North Carolina, Virginia and the northern part of SC through Saturday.
The National Weather Service says nearly half of all deaths from tropical cyclones come from storm surge.
According to the latest models, the coastal areas of Charleston and Berkeley counties have the highest risk in the Lowcountry region for risky winds that could destroy trees, structures and create massive power outages. Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different.
North and SC and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week.