'Monster' Hurricane Florence to pound U.S. Southeast for days
* Landfall in Carolinas forecast for Friday
* Trump signs declarations of emergency for Carolinas
* FEMA: 'We are planning for devastation'
* Intense inland flooding expected
(Adds FEMA says power could be out for weeks, Trump quote)
By Anna Driver
HOLDEN BEACH, N.C., Sept 11 (Reuters) - Powerful Hurricane
Florence grew larger on Tuesday and is expected to bring days of
rain, deadly flooding and power outages lasting weeks after it
slams into the U.S. Southeast coast later this week.
Winds and massive waves will pound coastal North and South
Carolina when Florence makes landfall on Friday, and its rains
will take a heavy toll for miles inland, the National Hurricane
Center (NHC) warned.
With winds currently at 140 miles per hour (225 km per
hour), the storm was a Category 4 on the five-step
Saffir-Simpson scale and expected to get bigger and stronger,
the NHC said.
"This storm is a monster," North Carolina Governor Roy
Cooper told a Tuesday news conference about the most powerful
storm to approach the Carolinas in nearly three decades.
"It's an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic
hurricane ... The forecast shows Florence stalling over North
Carolina, bringing days and days of rain."
Cooper and his counterparts in neighboring South Carolina
and Virginia ordered about 1 million people to evacuate coastal
homes, including along the Outer Banks barrier islands. To speed
evacuations, officials in South Carolina reversed the flow of
traffic on some highways so that all major roads led away from
Communities in Florence's path could be without electricity
for weeks, said Federal Emergency Management Agency
Administrator Brock Long.
The American Red Cross said more than 700 workers were
headed to the target area while shelters were set up to take in
those who could not evacuate. A hospital in Hampton, Virginia,
was transferring patients to safer places.
The slow-moving storm, the most severe hurricane to threaten
the U.S. mainland this year, was located about 785 miles (1,260
km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 4:30 p.m. EDT
(2030 GMT), according to the NHC.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations
of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia,
freeing up federal resources for storm response.
"We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared," Trump
said at the White House, adding that the administration would go
to Congress for emergency funding.
Trump faced severe criticism for his administration's
response to Hurricane Maria last year in Puerto Rico. Some 3,000
people died in the aftermath of that storm.
In addition to flooding the coast with wind-driven storm
surges of seawater as high as 13 feet (4 m), Florence could drop
15 to 25 inches (38 to 64 cm) of rain, with up to 35 inches (89
cm) in some spots, forecasters said.
Not everyone was in a hurry to leave. Charles Mullen, 81, a
longtime resident of Hatteras Island, North Carolina, said he
had ridden out many storms and that most locals were planning to
stay unless Florence took aim at Hatteras.
"If it decides to come here, we're gone," he said.
'DEADLY ... GAME OF CHESS'
Residents prepared by boarding up their homes and stripping
grocery stores bare of food, water and supplies. Some gas
stations also ran low on fuel.
"We are in a very deadly and important game of chess with
Hurricane Florence," South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said
at a Tuesday news conference.
Wall Street was sniffing out companies that could gain or
lose at the storm's hands. Generator maker Generac Holdings Inc
rose 1 percent and reached its highest price since
Nuclear power plants in the area were preparing for the
storm, with Duke Energy Corp's Brunswick and Harris
plants in North Carolina's were most likely to be affected, said
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah. He
noted that Dominion Energy Inc's Surry plant in Virginia
could also be affected if Florence turns north.
(Reporting by Anna Driver
Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina,
Liz Hampton in Houston, Susan Heavey in Washington, Bernie
Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Alden Bentley in New York
and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee
Writing by Nick Zieminski and Bill Trott
Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)
First Published: 2018-09-11 03:13:00
Updated 2018-09-11 22:52:21
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