MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (Various) — Time is running short to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a monster of a storm that has a region of more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights as it zeroes in on the Southeastern coast.
Forecasters said early Thursday that the storm’s outer rain bands are approaching the North Carolina coast. Its wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 mph (225 kph) to 110 mph (175 kph), reducing it from a Category 4 storm to a Category 2, and additional fluctuations and weakening were likely as it swirled toward land. But authorities warned Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely dangerous.
About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as merely a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 100 mph (160 kph), but that’s still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely dangerous storm for rain and storm surge.
The hurricane center is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast Saturday with winds of around 80 mph (130 kph) before landfall, but with rainfall in the 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimeter) range and up to 13 feet (nearly 4 meters) of storm surge.
22 American Red Cross volunteers from Minnesota have already been deployed–and more will likely be on their way.
Red Cross spokeswoman Carrie Carlson-Guest says, “we know that this is a very large storm and we know that we’re going to be sending a number of people from across the country, but our Red Cross volunteers from Minnesota are on standby and ready to help wherever needed.”
She urges Minnesotans who want to help in other ways–either by donating money or blood–can get more information at redcross-dot-org.
She also says Minnesotan’s with with friends and family in the Carolinas should encourage them to get prepared. She says they can download a free Red Cross emergency app that will help them find resources as needed, it also has preparedness tips and first aid information.