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Potentially catastrophic situation for East Coast as Hurricane Florence moves westward

• Updated Sep 9, 2018 at 5:48 PM

With Florence regaining hurricane status with winds of 75 mph as of midday Sunday, all interests along the United States East Coast are being put on alert for a potential strike during the second half of the week.

AccuWeather meteorologists are increasingly concerned Florence will pose a serious direct threat to part of the Eastern Seaboard this week. States of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia due to possible impacts from the storm.

Florence is expected to be as strong as a Category 4 hurricane by the time it makes its closest approach to the United States from Wednesday to Thursday. AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said that a Florence landfall along the U.S. East Coast is becoming more likely, with the Carolinas at greatest risk late this week. The exact track of the storm will determine which locations receive the worst of Florence's damaging winds, heavy rain and storm surge flooding.

People in the Carolinas to Virginia may face a very dangerous, potentially catastrophic situation. Florence is expected to strengthen into a major hurricane moving over very warm waters as it approaches the coast late in the week.

Indications are that storm may be very slow moving, and could even stall over the region. This would bring not only powerful winds and devastating storm surge, but a prolonged period of heavy, flooding rains to the region leading to widespread major flooding.

AccuWeather experts advise everyone in the region spanning northern Georgia to the Middle Atlantic coast to make action plans in case this storm approaches them later this week, and warn people living away from the coast to be prepared if the storm moves further inland. Visitors to the Carolina coast who may not be familiar with severe weather risks in these areas should be hyper-aware of storm developments and heed all warnings.

Rainfall well away from the coast will pose a serious flooding risk, especially if the storm is slow-moving. Inland flooding is the leading cause of lives lost in tropical systems, and this would be a major risk here given the mountainous terrain in parts of North Carolina and Virginia.

This summer's unusually persistent wet weather pattern in parts of the east has left the ground saturated in many areas, and rivers and streams continue to run at levels well above normal. AccuWeather meteorologists warn that it won’t take much additional rain to create significant flooding. As correctly forecasted and then reported on by AccuWeather, rainfall totals in the parts of the eastern U.S. set records during the summer months. AccuWeather meteorologists also note that the saturated ground will increase the potential for trees to blow over in tropical winds, which could increase the risk for damage and power outages.

Should Hurricane Florence threaten, AccuWeather experts strongly urge people in potentially affected areas to consider a plan that encompasses where to go and what to do.

Some considerations for such an action plan might include:

• Knowing where the nearest shelter will be in case of an evacuation (and if pets are welcome). If people do not feel safe as the storm approaches, AccuWeather advises they do not need to wait until an official evacuation order to get to safety.

• Setting aside insurance documents and proof of home/land ownership and any other important papers in case of a ”grab and go” circumstance.

• Taking photographs of the interior and exterior of your home or business to document for insurance purposes.

• Making a family or employee communications plan.

• Stocking up on enough supplies to last at least a few days in the case of sheltering in place.

Planning for the care of pets.

“Now is the best time to plan before a disaster threatens,” said Dr. Joel Myers, Founder and President of AccuWeather. ”It is imperative that people and businesses have access to a reliable source to track the storm’s progress, and communicate and execute an emergency action plan to keep people safe and out of harm’s way as well as a plan and the necessary supplies to secure and protect property in advance.”

Myers said this advance planning should be considered by anyone in a hurricane-prone area and especially those at risk for Florence to ensure people and business remain focused and in control should the unthinkable occur.

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