Meteorologists and state officials are running out of adjectives to describe the hurricane bearing down on the Carolina coast. So far, they’ve come up with “monster,” the “storm of a lifetime,” “disastrous,” “historic,” “life-threatening” and, most of all, extremely dangerous.
They’re warning that even if you’ve ridden out a storm in the past, don’t try it with this one.
"This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast," Federal Emergency Management Agency associate administrator Jeff Byard said on Wednesday on CNN.
And it’s coming soon: "Today is the last good day to evacuate" he said.
Millions of people are expected to be without power once the storm hits, bringing the most powerful hurricane the region has seen in decades. Droves of people are fleeing North and South Carolina as Hurricane Florence barrels toward the coasts, with meteorologists warning of tsunami-like storm surges nearly a story high. The barrier islands on North Carolina known as the Outer Banks are particularly at-risk, as they’re connected to the state’s mainland by just two bridges. If those are flooded, people could become stranded, according to NPR.
The National Weather Service is calling Florence the “storm of a lifetime” for parts of the Carolina coast. Its’ heavy winds are expected to hit the South and North Carolina coasts by Friday, with landfall expected sometime Saturday.
It could ultimately dump up to 15 to 25 inches of rain across parts of the Southeast, prompting evacuation orders for more than 1.5 million people as the storm advances toward the shore.
People have grabbed all the food they can carry from local grocery stores. Photos on social media show store aisles almost completely empty of water.
“Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper at a news conference on Tuesday.
He ordered a mandatory evacuation for people on the state’s barrier islands. At that point, ocean surge was already washing over low-lying roads, hampering evacuations, according to the Charlotte Observer.
In South Carolina, the state reversed lanes of traffic to ensure an estimated 1 million people could get away from the coast.
“It’s an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane,” Cooper said. A power outage model developed by researchers at the University of Michigan shows 3.6 million people could be without electricity, mostly in the eastern half of North Carolina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency warned on Tuesday that such outages could last weeks.
Sustained maximum winds are currently around 130 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The Cape Fear and Cape Lookout region in southeastern North Carolina could see a storm surge as high as 13 feet — more than story high — according to the center’s 5 a.m. advisory. That’ll push water onto dry land and could result in catastrophic flooding. While the storm could lose steam before making landfall, forecasters warn it will still hit hard. “While some weakening is expected to begin by late Thursday, Florence is still forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it nears the U.S. coast on Friday,” the National Hurricane Center said in its [most recent advisory. ](https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCPAT1+shtml/121458.shtml)J. Marshall Shepard, a meteorologist and professor of geography at the University of Georgia, told the New York Times that the hurricane could bring impacts similar to those seen by Hurricane Harvey in Houston last year. “It’s a dire situation that I believe is setting up,” Shepard said.
Cover image: A mandatory evacuation is in effect in preparation of the approaching Hurricane Florence, on September 11, 2018 in Topsail Beach, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence is expected on Friday possibly as a category 4 storm along the Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)