Florence is here: First fatalities confirmed as monster storm lashes US east coast


urricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Friday morning, menacing the coast with life-threatening storm surge and Category 1-strength winds of up to 155 kilometres an hour. The storm is stalling over the inland, moving at a meagre 5 kilometres an hour. Hundreds of thousands were already without power Friday night, with storm surges reaching up to 7 feet in height.
Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon with winds around 110 kilometer per hour.
The first five storm-related fatalities were confirmed Friday afternoon. The police department in Wilmington, N.C., said a woman and a baby were killed when a tree fell on their house. The child’s father was taken to the hospital. In Pender County, North Carolina, one woman died after she suffered a heart attack and paramedics were unable to reach her due to blocked roads, while another person was killed while plugging in a generator. A fifth died when he was blown down by high winds.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who tweeted that first responders and law enforcement are “supplied and ready” for the storm, also spent Thursday arguing on Twitter about the death toll in Puerto Rico from last year’s Hurricane Maria, which he said, falsely and without evidence, had been inflated by Democrats to make him look bad. Nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, up from an initial post-storm estimate of 64.
Airlines cancelled more than 1,200 flights, and airports closed in Wilmington, N.C., Charleston, S.C. , and points farther inland. Airlines are bracing for more travel disruptions to come from tropical storm Isaac, which threatens vacation destinations in the Caribbean.
The Red Cross is raising funds for what is expected to be far-reaching damage. The onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas. “Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Thursday.


Florence made landfall Friday at 7:15 a.m. (ET) near North Carolina’s Wrightsville Beach, the U.S. hurricane centre confirmed. Hurricane-force winds extended 150 km from its centre, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 315 km.

Florence’s route to the U.S. coast has been difficult for forecasters to track. The weather systems that usually push and pull a storm disappeared as the storm neared land. The centre slowed down and is expected to stall, but it could also wander around just offshore. Either scenario could be devastating: The more it stalls, the more it rains, but the more it hovers offshore, the more potentially deadly storm surge it could push on shore.

“This is a horrific nightmare storm from a meteorological perspective,” University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd told Associated Press. “We’ve just never seen anything like this. … This is just a strange bird.”


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The damage so far
Florence’s fury began to reach the Carolina coast on Thursday, inundating coastal streets and knocking out power for tens of thousands.

The first five storm-related fatalities were confirmed Friday afternoon and evening. The police department in Wilmington, N.C., said a woman and a baby were killed when a tree fell on their house. Trees have become a “nuisance” to rescue officials. In Pender County, North Carolina, a woman suffered a fatal heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris. The fourth and fifth victims were killed in Lenoir County; one was killed while plugging in a generator and the other when he was blown down by high winds.

Authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.

Pamlico River in N.C., has risen beyond its banks and is flooding entire neighbourhoods. Floodwaters submerged U.S. Highway 264, cutting off a major route to other flood-prone areas along the river and the adjacent Pamlico Sound.

The storm surge had reached 7 feet on Emerald Isle, North Carolina, and could climb as high as 11 feet elsewhere. More than 600,000 people have lost power in North Carolina.

Downtown New Bern, on the Neuse River also is flooded. The city tweeted early Friday that 150 people were awaiting rescue. The TV station in New Bern, WCTI-TV NewsChannel 12, was forced to evacuate its newsroom in the middle of Hurricane Florence coverage as floodwaters surrounded the building. The station posted on Facebook Thursday that the employees had to abandon their studio for the “first time in history.”

The station’s journalists were out in the weather Friday, reporting on the impact and posting updates to the station’s Facebook page.


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Firefighters work to remove a tree that fell on a house during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018.


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Search and Rescue workers from New York rescue a man from flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in River Bend, North Carolina, U.S. in this September 14, 2018


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New Bern, N.C., Sept. 13: Jamie Thompson walks through flooded sections of East Front Street near Union Point Park.


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New Bern, N.C., Sept. 13: Michael Nelson floats in a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded his street.


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The terrible trio: A hurricane’s destruction explained
Hurricanes are one of nature’s most powerful engines of destruction, turning warm sea water into wind and rain. Here’s a look at how those devastating forces played out in Florida. (For a more detailed primer on how hurricanes form, read more here.)

To be classified as a hurricane, a tropical storm has to have top wind speeds of 119 kilometres an hour or higher. Earlier this week, Florence had maximum sustained winds of 225 km/h, but slowed down to a Category 2 by Thursday and a 1 by Friday. Technically, a hurricane doesn’t have to make landfall to lash a coastal area with its strongest winds, the U.S. National Hurricane Center explains; “landfall” means that the centre of a hurricane has crossed onto a coastline, and the precise centre isn’t where the strongest winds are.

Past the 119-km/h threshold, the U.S. hurricane centre classifies storms in five categories of wind speed.


Hurricane intensity is measured by a storm’s average wind speed
























A tropical cyclone is essentially a giant vaccuum of swirling water vapour, and the more powerful it is, the more water it sucks from some parts of the ocean to move to others. At one end, this creates astonishing drops in the water level, leaving boats and marine life stranded on exposed ocean floor, and at the other end, it creates storm surges, flooding streets and homes.

More than 50 centimetres of rain is expected from Florence, possibly causing “catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding” over a wide area of the Carolinas and the mid-Atlantic states, the National Hurricane Center announced. A computer simulation known as the European model, which is the same model that accurately predicted last year’s Hurricane Harvey, predicts some places could be hit by as much as 115 cm of rain. Harvey also stalled over land and dropped more than 150 cm of rain in the Texas area.

Another concern from an immense amount of rain is the toxicity in water supplies. North Carolina has roughly 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms containing more than nine million hogs. Florence’s heavy rain could cause an environmental disaster if waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites washes into homes or threatens drinking water supplies.

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What makes Florence so unique?
Hurricane Florence is unusual in that it struck at the Carolinas from the east. Typically, storms that become hurricanes come to the U.S. east coast and the mid-Atlantic from the south, and curve outward to the sea. Most storms that hit the coastal U.S. tend to track further south near the Florida Keys, thanks to the jet stream that stretched across the northern United States. But since summer heat extends later, the jet stream has not moved the storm in the same way, and Florence is on a different track than most storms.

The last Category 4 hurricane to barrel straight toward the Carolinas was Hurricane Hazel in 1954, which was famous for its destructiveness. It was the deadliest and costliest hurricane of the 1950s, making landfall near Calabash, North Carolina before travelling along the Atlantic coast and affecting Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. It was felt in Ontario as an extratropical storm and caused severe flooding.

Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac was expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was expected to weaken over the eastern Atlantic.

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How people on the coast prepared
Some 1.7 million people evacuated the area along the coast of North and South Carolina and Virginia. Service stations started running out of gas as far west as Raleigh, N.C., with bright yellow bags, signs or rags placed over the pumps to show they were out of order. Some store shelves were picked clean.

People began boarding up the sides of buildings and windows, while many stocked up on supplies. Steady streams of vehicles full of people, belongings and pets flowed inland Tuesday and will continue today, which has been declared the last day to safely evacuate. Governor Roy Cooper encouraged everyone on North Carolina’s coast to flee.

Floridians, usually accustomed to fleeing hurricanes by going north, began welcoming Carolinians coming south. Florida hotels offered special discounts for hurricane evacuees, and Florida ports opened their terminals to cruise ships making unexpected ports of call.

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Two people enter a restaurant with boarded windows in perpetration for the arrival of Hurricane Florence at Wrightsville beach, North Carolina, September 11, 2018.


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A South Carolina state trooper directs traffic as D.O.T. workers move cones at an access ramp to I-26 Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in Columbia, S.C. A lane reversal was implemented earlier in the day, utilizing all lanes for travel west between Charleston and Columbia in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.


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What the federal government is doing
Days before Florence’s landfall, U.S. President Donald Trump vowed that federal agencies would be ready. “Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one,” he said in a videotaped message from the Rose Garden.

Donald J. Trump

9:03 PM – Sep 12, 2018
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For Puerto Ricans, Florence has brought back memories of the devastation from last year’s Hurricane Maria, and Mr. Trump’s widely criticized response to it. On a visit to the U.S. territory after Maria, Mr. Trump praised officials for a low loss of life, in a disaster the ultimately turned out to have 2,675 deaths, instead of the 64 initially estimated. Mr. Trump spent Thursday arguing on Twitter about Maria’s death toll, claiming without evidence that “3,000 people did not die.” He also called the count a move by Democrats to make him look bad. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz fired back at Mr. Trump, calling him “delusional.”

Mr. Trump is expected to travel to areas hit by Hurricane Florence next week, once it has been determined that his travel would not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts, the White House said on Friday.

Donald J. Trump

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…

10:37 PM – Sep 13, 2018
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Carmen Yulín Cruz

Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality. Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT.

11:31 PM – Sep 13, 2018
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What you can do
The Red Cross has already set up a way to collect donations for relief from the impending storm, while fellow metropolis areas in Atlanta, Georgia and as far as Detroit are offering help and shelter.

Global Affairs Canada is advising Canadians not to travel to the storm-affected areas. Canadians who are already there can register with the department, which can provide consular assistance if needed.

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Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from the Associated Press, New York Times News Service, The Canadian Press, Globe staff and Reuters