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NC Gov. Roy Cooper Orders Mandatory Evacuations as ‘Monster’ Hurricane Florence Nears

Hurricane Evacuations
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

In a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) told residents that Hurricane Florence is a “monster” and they should not attempt to ride out the storm in their homes.

Cooper had a stern warning for coastal residents who have stayed in their homes during previous hurricanes, including Fran in 1996, Floyd in 1999, and Matthew in 2016: This one is different. The governor urged residents not to “bet your life on riding out a monster.”

To reinforce this, Cooper announced he had issued what he called the first-of-its-kind mandatory evacuation order for North Carolina’s fragile barrier islands from one end of the coast to the other. Ordinary, local officials make the call on evacuations. A handful, including those at the Outer Banks, have already issued orders for the island residents to leave.

In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) lifted mandatory evacuation orders in three counties along the state’s southern coast. McMaster made the announcement Tuesday as forecasters continued to show Hurricane Florence’s projected tract moving farther northward.

The governor also stated lane reversals would begin at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday on Interstate 26, an hour earlier than had been scheduled, allowing all lanes of the interstate to move westward, away from the coast. Video of residents leaving the area has begun circulated on social media.

As of 2:00 p.m., Florence reached maximum sustained winds near 130 mph, while centered roughly 845 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west-northwest at 17 mph. Experts predict the storm will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas, then approach the coast of either South Carolina or North Carolina.

Meteorologists are expecting rainfall from Hurricane Florence to measure in feet, not inches. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center forecasts at least 20 inches of rain for parts of North Carolina. Rain could reach as much as ten inches elsewhere in North Carolina, Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

However, a European computer simulation is predicting more than 45 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina, such as New Hanover County, with meteorologists comparing the rainfall to last year’s Hurricane Harvey. A year ago, residents would have laughed off a forecast of 45 inches of rain, yet the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches of rain for Harvey. University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy says it is “looking likely” that Florence will unleash feet, not inches of rain.

 

Meanwhile, Hurricane Helene has turned away from land as it moves over cooler ocean waters, and Tropical Storm Isaac is approaching the Caribbean. Authorities in Dominica are opening shelters and warning they will turn off water and power as a precautionary measure as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches the eastern Caribbean.

The National Hurricane Center stated Isaac will likely be a strong tropical storm when it reaches the eastern Caribbean early Thursday. It is expected to drop 3 to 5 inches of rain with up to 10 inches in isolated areas. Isaac is located 775 miles east of the Lesser Antilles with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

According to reports, recruits are being evacuated from the Marine Corps’ largest training installation on the East Coast as Powerful Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolinas. Brig. Gen. James Glynn issued the order Tuesday for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina. Glynn is commanding general of the depot. “I have determined the safest course of action is to evacuate,” Glynn said in a statement. “For everyone’s safety, I have issued the evacuation order well ahead of the storm in an effort to ensure everyone is able to seek refuge before the storm impacts the area.”

The mayor of Washington, D.C., has declared a state of emergency as the nation’s capital prepares for heavy rains, flooding,and power outages related to Hurricane Florence. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the move Tuesday morning, describing it as a necessary step to “ensure we have the resources and support” to handle several days of torrential rain. Several public events and street festivals scheduled for this weekend have been canceled, and Bowser advised Washington residents to stock up on groceries and batteries and make sure their prescriptions are filled. City officials say the primary dangers to residents will come from flash flooding and power lines downed by falling tree branches.

President Donald Trump says the federal government is “absolutely, totally prepared” for Hurricane Florence as it heads toward the Eastern Seaboard. The president briefed reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday. Trump has declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina ahead of the Category 4 hurricane, which frees up help from federal agencies. He has also canceled campaign events Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the storm. The president was meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency later Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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