RALEIGH, N.C. – Coastal residents fleeing a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence encountered empty gasoline pumps and depleted store shelves as the monster storm neared the Carolina coast with 140 mph (225 kph) winds and drenching rain that could last for days.
While some said they planned to stay put despite hurricane watches and warnings that include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast, many weren’t taking any chances.
Steady streams of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland Tuesday as Gov. Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone on North Carolina’s coast to flee.
Government officials are ordering mandatory evacuations for areas in the most dangerous zones, mostly on the coast of the Carolinas.
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.
South Carolina evacuation information
Residents in the southern most parts of South Carolina no longer need to evacuate due to Hurricane Florence. Due to updated predictions from the National Hurricane Center, Governor Henry McMaster, in coordination with state and local officials, has lifted the mandatory evacuation order for zones in Beaufort, Colleton, and Jasper counties, with the exception of Edisto Beach.
The mandatory evacuation executive order remains in effect for all zones in Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties and for Edisto Beach.
Additionally, the governor has ordered that schools and state offices in the following counties will be open beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, September 12: Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Beaufort, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper.
Evacuation shelter locations for those evacuating from the state’s northern and central coastal counties will be available on scemd.org and in the SC Emergency Manager mobile app as soon as they are opened.
Evacuees should pack the following essential items in anticipation of a potentially prolonged evacuation period: required medications, adequate clothing, and essential personal items. Residents going to evacuation shelters should bring their own blankets, pillows, cots, and special food items if they are on restricted diets.
Individuals and families should plan to board pets with veterinarians, kennels, or other facilities in non-vulnerable areas. Pets are not allowed inside Red Cross evacuation shelters.
People who live in the following coastal areas must evacuate beginning noon today. Residents who do not know their zones can visit SCEMD’s “Know Your Zone” website where they can enter their address and be given their precise zones and view detailed maps of the zones.
Northern South Carolina Coast (All Zones)
- Horry County Evacuation Zones A, B, C
- Georgetown County Evacuation Zones A, B, C
Central South Carolina Coast (All Zones)
- Charleston County Evacuation Zones A, B, C
- Dorchester County Evacuation Zones D, E, F
- Berkeley County Evacuation Zones B, G, H, I
Southern South Carolina Coast
- Edisto Beach
Lane Reversals and Evacuation Routes
The governor also announced that the lane reversal on I-26 will begin immediately and ahead of schedule, due to the swift work by DOT and DPS personnel. All other lane reversals will begin as previously indicated at 12 noon.
Lane Reversals and Evacuation Routes (All evacuation routes and zones are detailed in the 2018 S.C. Hurricane Guide):
North Carolina evacuation information
North Carolina's governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation for the state's barrier islands as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast.
Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he had issued a first-of-its-kind state evacuation to help prompt residents of the barrier islands, including the Outer Banks, to leave.
Cooper said local governments are typically responsible for issuing evacuation orders in North Carolina, and some localities have already issued orders to evacuate.
But Cooper said he believed Florence will be "so fierce" that the state needs to provide an "added incentive" for people to leave.
Governors in South Carolina and Virginia have also issued mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the storm.
As of 6 pm on Monday, the following counties have ordered evacuations, with more anticipated tomorrow:
- Bertie County – voluntary evacuation of waterfront and low-lying areas effective Wednesday, Sept 12
- Brunswick County - voluntary evacuation of unincorporated areas effective Tuesday, Sept 11; mandatory evacuation of low-lying and flood-prone areas, people in substandard or mobile homes effective Tuesday, Sept 11
- Currituck County - mandatory evacuation for Currituck Outer Banks (Corolla and Carova) effective 7am Tuesday, Sept 11
- Dare County - mandatory evacuation for Hatteras Island effective noon Monday, Sept 10; mandatory evacuation for entire county effective 7am Tuesday, Sept 11
- Hyde County - mandatory evacuation for visitors to Ocracoke effective Monday, Sept. 10; mandatory evacuation for residents to Ocracoke effective Tuesday, Sept 11
- New Hanover County - mandatory evacuation for UNCW
- Onslow County – voluntary evacuation of unincorporated areas and Surf City effective Monday, Sept 10; mandatory evacuation of Topsail Beach effective Tuesday, Sept 11
This afternoon Governor Cooper led a briefing for local and state officials as well as Congressional representatives on preparations for Hurricane Florence. Gov. Cooper, NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry and FEMA Regional Administrator Grazia Szczech briefed the officials on evacuation status, the schedule of shelter openings and supply and heavy equipment mobilization needed for rescue and recovery.
The Governor’s Office also today activated North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund for donations to support North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Florence. To donate, visit www.rebuild.nc.gov/.
Download the Ready NC app or follow NC Emergency Management on Facebook and Twitter for weather updates and to learn how you can prepare for the storm.
Monster Hurricane Florence aims to drench Carolinas
Forecasters said hurricane-force winds will be blowing ashore early Friday as Florence stalls along the coast before dumping a torrential 1 to 2½ feet (0.3 to 0.6 meters) of rain. Flooding well inland could wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
Up to a foot of rain is now predicted places in the southern Appalachian mountains as projections shifted the storm’s eventual path southward. “This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding,” forecasters said Wednesday.
At 8 a.m., Florence had top sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) and was centered 530 miles (855 kilometers) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, approaching the coast at 17 mph (28 kph). Already a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane, it was moving over warmer water and expected to intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph (253 kph) or higher.
Significantly, hurricane-force winds extended 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the eye, and tropical-storm-force winds reached 175 miles (280 kilometers) outward, making outdoor preparations difficult or dangerous as early as Thursday.
Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac was east of the Lesser Antilles and expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.
The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet (2.75 meters) of water in spots, projections showed. The Navy, Air Force and Army were moving ships and aircraft out of harm’s way. Thousands of Marines and their families evacuated from Camp Lejeune, leaving the rest to dig in ahead of what could be a direct hit.
“This one really scares me,” National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
Federal officials begged residents to put together emergency kits and have a plan on where to go.
“This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks. It’s going to destroy infrastructure. It’s going to destroy homes,” said Jeff Byard, an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain, if not more, with as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.
One trusted computer model, the European simulation, predicted more than 45 inches (115 centimeters) in parts of North Carolina. A year ago, people would have laughed off such a forecast, but the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches (150 centimeters) for Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, so “you start to wonder what these models know that we don’t,” University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy said.
Rain measured in feet is “looking likely,” he said.
Florence’s projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons.
Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive.
North Carolina’s governor issued what he called a first-of-its-kind mandatory evacuation order for all of North Carolina’s fragile barrier islands. Typically, local governments in the state make the call on evacuations.
“We’ve seen nor’easters and we’ve seen hurricanes before,” Cooper said, “but this one is different.”
Despite all that, 65-year-old Liz Browning Fox plans to ride the storm out in the Outer Banks village of Buxton, North Carolina, despite a mandatory evacuation order. Her 88-year-old mother refused to evacuate and will stay with her.
“Everyone who is staying here is either a real old-timer, someone who doesn’t know where would be better, or someone involved in emergency operations one way or another,” said Fox.