Georgia Coast: Hurricane Watch issued as Florence intensifies

ATLANTIC OCEAN - SEPTEMBER 10: In this NASA handout image taken by Astronaut Ricky Arnold, Hurricane Florence gains strength in the Atlantic Ocean as it moves west, seen from the International Space Station on September 10, 2018. Weather predictions say the storm will likely hit the U.S. East Coast as early as Thursday, September 13 bringing massive winds and rain. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

From Fox 5 News

A Hurricane Watch has been issued for parts of the East Coast, from South Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border, as Florence heads toward the United States.

As of 5 a.m. Tuesday, Florence’s maximum sustained winds were estimated to be 140 mph. The storm was centered about 985 miles south-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina and moving west-northwest at 15mph.

The storm’s hurricane-force winds are extending up to 40 miles from the storm’s center, officials said. Tropical storm-force winds are extending up to 150 miles.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border, and for Albermarle and Pamlico Sounds. A Storm Surge Watch is also in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border.

Hurricane Florence rapidly intensified into a monster Category 4 storm Monday, and forecasters warn that the hurricane will likely become even more powerful. It’s expected to become a Category 5 storm on Tuesday. It’s then forecast to close in on North or South Carolina on Thursday, hitting a stretch of coastline that’s vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.

While some changes in the forecast track can happen before landfall late Thursday/early Friday, experts are warning people along the North and South Carolina coasts to remain on high alert. The governor of South Carolina ordered about a million people to evacuate the state’s coastal areas starting at Noon Tuesday.

South Carolina’s governor ordered the state’s entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee. And Virginia’s governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas, while some coastal counties in North Carolina have done the same.

The storm’s first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as dangerous rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway.

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 dangerous conditions.

The storm’s potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.