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December 12, 2018
Storm Florence: 'Epic' amounts of rain unloaded on Carolinas
World News

Storm Florence: ‘Epic’ amounts of rain unloaded on Carolinas


Men stand waist-deep in water, as a car is submerged heavily in Holly Ridge, North CarolinaImage copyright
EPA

Image caption

Tropical storm Florence is continuing to unload inches, and even feet, of rain in places

US east coast communities face “epic amounts of rainfall” from tropical storm Florence, which has been linked to at least 11 deaths.

It has caused catastrophic flooding since arriving as a category one hurricane on Friday.

Some towns have already seen 2ft (60cm) of rain in two days, with totals forecast to top 3.5ft (1m) in places.

It is feared that more communities could become deluged as the storm crawls west at only 2mph (3km/h).

“This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Saturday.

He urged against residents attempting to return home, warning that “all roads in the state are at risk of floods”.

A disaster has been declared by US President Donald Trump in eight counties in North Carolina – a move that will help free up federal funding for recovery efforts.

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Media captionGusts & floods: the impact of the storm

The president may travel to the region next week, the White House says.

What do we know of the victims?

Eleven people have died as a result of Florence, the Associated Press reports, quoting officials.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Officials say some people have had to be winched to safety in places

Among the fatalities in North Carolina:

  • A mother and her seven-month baby were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington on Friday, also injuring the infant’s father
  • A 78-year-old man was electrocuted in Lenoir County while attempting to connect extension cords
  • A 77-year-old man in the same county died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs
  • A woman died from cardiac arrest in the town of Hampstead after emergency responders had their route to her blocked by downed trees

In South Carolina, a 62-year-old woman died when her car hit a tree that had fallen across a road in the town of Union.

Two others died in the state from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator inside their home, according to a local coroner.


The storm in numbers

  • Florence is 350 miles (560 km) wide and has travelled 4,000 miles across the ocean from west Africa
  • It was packing 120mph winds (193km/h) on Thursday but weakened from a Category 3 hurricane to Category 1 before it hit the coastline on Friday
  • Duke Energy, the area’s biggest utility company, warned that three million people could end up without power and restoration could take weeks
  • About 10 million people could be affected by the storm as it moves further inland in the days ahead

Read more about its impact


How bad is the damage?

The storm is still leaving a path of destruction across the two states, despite its top sustained wind speeds weakening to 45mph.

About a million customers in the two states are without power, the New York Times reports.

A spokesman for the South Carolina Highway Patrol warned on Saturday that conditions remained treacherous on roads.

Image copyright
Getty Images

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Reports from the National Weather Service suggest rainfall may have broken North Carolina state records

“You know the areas that don’t have power, it’s hard to see the power lines in the road way,” said Trooper Bob Bers.

In Fayetteville in North Carolina, officials warned people living by swollen rivers that the worst was yet to come.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The dramatic flooding in New Bern, North Carolina created spectacular damage in places

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Jerry King, in New Bern, cleans the mess from his home caused by a 4ft storm surge

“If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible,” Mayor Mitch Colvin said.

Scores of residents had to be rescued from flooding by emergency responders and volunteers in New Bern, North Carolina, on Saturday.

Colleen Roberts, city public information officer for the area, told BBC World News more than 4,000 homes had been “destroyed or completely damaged” there, based on calls they had received for emergency services.

“That’s preliminary at this point. And we have 300 businesses that are damaged or destroyed.”

Where is the storm heading now?

The centre of the storm moved slowly westward on Saturday across the Carolinas, bringing further heavy rain and flooding, the US National Hurricane Centre says.

It is expected to weaken gradually as it moves inland, heading northwards through the Ohio valley by Monday.

The Federal Emergency Management Authority has said motorists should not attempt to drive through floodwaters.

“Just turn around and don’t drown,” officials said.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world’s deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane – in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific – or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

“Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma’s eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale – other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

“For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008


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Source BBC News

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