Florence Bears Down on East Coast as 'Potentially Catastrophic' Major Hurricane

Blanche Robertson
September 11, 2018

Category 1 hurricane Florence gained strength on Sunday in the central Atlantic and is expected to turn into a major storm by Monday night as it churns over the open ocean and heads toward the U.S. East Coast, the U.S. hurricane agency said.

As of 11 p.m. EDT, Florence was centered about 685 miles (1,100 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 7 mph (11 kmh).

If Florence continues on its current forecast track, life-threatening conditions will be possible in North Carolina and SC at the end of next week with risky storm surge and strong winds possible, in addition to flooding that would impact the coasts and areas further inland.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, Florence had strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour.

As a precaution against Florence, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered an estimated 1 million coastal residents in his state to move inland. "This storm gets stronger and stronger" and is on its way to a head-on impact on the Carolinas, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. A Category 2 hurricane has winds between 96 and 110 miles per hour, the hurricane center said.

Further to the east, forecasters are also watching hurricanes Isaac and Helene.

It's far too early to speculate about potential industry losses for the insurance, reinsurance and ILS sector at this time, but by late Sunday or Monday a clearer picture of the eventual track hurricane Florence will take should have emerged. Forecast models suggest that more than two feet of rain could fall over the higher elevations of the Carolinas and Virginia, which would generate risky flooding downstream. As the storm approaches, President Donald Trump on Monday approved a state of emergency for North Carolina.

Florence was a Category 4 storm late afternoon Monday.

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Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles from the center.

The Atlantic hurricane season has picked up in earnest: There are three tropical systems worth tracking across the Atlantic.

The U.S. Navy is sending almost 30 of its Virginia-based ships out to sea as Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Atlantic Coast.

Hurricane track and intensity forecasts often have wide margins of error beyond five days, and with Florence computer models have struggled to accurately predict what the storm will do. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes and fill sandbags and secure their homes. "State emergency management, transportation, health experts and others are making sure North Carolina is prepared for the storm, and I urge the public to review your emergency plans and gather your supplies now".

As a result Florence is now being closely watched by insurance and reinsurance firms, as well as insurance-linked securities (ILS) funds and investors, as some of the forecasts show a path that could cause significant impacts. "We know we can't play around with this", said Jennifer Oosterwyk, who owns the Sugar Britches boutique on Holden Beach and lives in nearby Wilmington.

In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told not to leave their vehicles at the sprawling base later this week because of the flood threat. The university said Sunday that it has issued a voluntary evacuation for students starting at midday Monday, noting classes would be cancelled.

The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.

Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line re-routed its cruise ships.

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