USA – Mass Evacuations as Hurricane Florence Heads for East Coast

Mass evacuations have been ordered as Hurricane Florence bears down on the US East Coast.

As of 11 September, Florence was a category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds near 140 mph (220 km/h). Storm surge of up to 12 feet (3.6 metres) is possible along parts of the eastern coast.

The National Hurricane Center in the USA said ” Some strengthening is expected during the next day or so, and Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday night.”

Florence is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 15 to 20 (381mm to 508mm) inches with isolated maximum of 30 inches (762 mm) near Florence’s track over portions of North Carolina, Virginia, and northern South Carolina through Saturday. This rainfall may produce life-threatening flash flooding.

Astronaut Ricky Arnold, from aboard the International Space Station, shared this image of Hurricane Florence on Sept. 10, taken as the orbiting laboratory flew over the massive storm.
Image Credit: NASA

Evacuations

North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland governors have declared states of emergency. Evacuation orders have been issued in coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

South Carolina

South Carolina has ordered than 1 million residents to evacuate coastal areas. A full list of areas to be evacuated can be found here.

Public schools and state offices have also been closed until further notice in 26 counties.

Virginia

In Virginia, Governor Northam issued mandatory evacuation order for coastal Virginia residents in low-lying areas of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore in advance of Hurricane Florence.

This area is referred to as Virginia’s “Zone A” for disaster emergencies and includes around 250,000 residents. Zones are designated A through D. Zones provide residents with clarity on whether they should evacuate in an emergency or shelter at home, based on their address and the nature of the emergency event. More about the zones and evacuation orders can be found here.

“Hurricane Florence has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding, especially in our coastal areas,” Governor Northam said. “This evacuation is for the safety of thousands of Virginians living in that zone. But the effects of this storm will be felt statewide, and I encourage everyone in Virginia to prepare now.”

North Carolina

Around 300,000 people have been ordered to evacuate North Carolina’s coastal areas, mostly around the barrier islands including Outer Banks, Hatteras and Ocracoke.

“We face three critical threats from Florence: ocean surge along our coast, strong winds, and inland flooding from heavy rain,” Governor Cooper said. “Wherever you live in North Carolina, you need to get ready for this storm now and you need to evacuate if asked to.”

Storm preparations are underway throughout the state, and most coastal counties have ordered evacuations. In North Carolina, when to evacuate starts with a local decision because local officials know their communities and their people best.

The governor urges residents to follow evacuation orders issued for their areas. As list of areas under evacuation orders (as of 11 September) can be found here.