Hurricane Florence: Latest updates as potentially catastrophic storm expected to slam Carolinas

Powerful Hurricane Florence is continuing on its path, expected to slam the Carolinas by Thursday night into Friday morning.

Evacuations have begun across both North and South Carolina as it is now likely that the storm will make landfall, potentially as a catastrophic storm. The only question at this point is where.

Florence is located some 575 miles away from the coast of North Carolina with winds down to 130 mph. The storm continues its forward movement at 17 mph in a west-northwesterly direction. The official forecast provided by the National Hurricane Center indicates the storm will be just on the brink of a catastrophic category 5 hurricane on Wednesday with winds of 155 mph.

Hurricane and Storm Surge Warnings have already been issued across much of the Carolinas coastline as the storm is expected to make landfall as a category 3 or 4 hurricane with winds of 120-140 mph late on Thursday or Friday morning. It is important to know that the exact location of where the eye will track to is too soon to be determined. An area stretching roughly from Charleston, S.C. to the Outer Banks in North Carolina is within National Hurricane Center’s cone of uncertainty.

Even then, the storm’s impacts will go well beyond the center of the storm. Regardless of where the storm makes landfall, Florence is expected to bring a tremendous storm surge in excess of 9-13 feet that could be life threatening.

On the other end of the spectrum, this storm will be a prolonged heavy rain event as the system starts to slow down after landfall. With rainfall in excess of 20 inches possible, the National Hurricane Center says that life-threatening , catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding is likely for the region starting late this week into following week. Finally, damaging hurricane-force winds will spread well inland into the Carolinas as well as Virginia.

For our region, an area of high pressure will to suppress Florence, keeping it from heading our way. While we are not expected to be directly impacted, swells created by Florence will propagate to our region. A high surf advisory has been is expected to be posted in the coming days as 6 to 9 foot waves will batter the ocean facing shoreline, bringing the risk of beach erosion and dangerous rip currents

Beyond the next five days, whatever is left of Florence is still to be determined. The storm could eventually rain itself out as it meanders around the region, or possibly get picked up by a cold front bringing some rain towards the northeast early next week.