For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other unsafe conditions.
Current forecast models indicate that Florence could strike the Carolinas and enter central Virginia, possibly stalling and dropping more than 20 inches of rain in some areas. At this point, county and city agencies are operating at OPCON 3 as operations were ramped up a bit on Sunday morning.
Florence is now heading for ocean water with surface temperatures of around 85 degrees, meaning it will likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.
It says that the winds are likely to hit North and SC around Thursday morning, and Pennsylvania by the evening.
Regardless of where Florence comes near land, its impact, including wind, rain, and storm surge, will be felt well outside the immediate area near storm's center. They said torrential rains in the mountains could easily cause flash floods, leading to extensive damage.
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What does Florence mean for us?
Florence is moving toward the west near 6 miles per hour, and this general motion is expected to continue today.
"This could be the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the Carolinas since Hugo", Quagliariello said, referring to the Category 5 hurricane that caused widespread damage in the Caribbean and Southeast U.S.in 1989.
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The largest threat to life from hurricanes is not the high winds, officials said, noting that flooding is the deadliest result of these storms. The storm is now about 950 miles from the Carolina coast line, but moving in that direction at about 15 mph. The forecast is for landfall to occur overnight Thursday into Friday morning.
On Sunday, the hurricane center reported that Florence had reached sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour to be classified a hurricane. As the storm encounters the highlands of North Carolina and Virginia, it will likely increase its rate of precipitation.
'Wherever you are in North Carolina, get ready for Florence now, ' Governor Cooper said.
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