“A Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast”: Watching and waiting as Florence advances

“A Mike Tyson punch”: Watching and waiting as Florence advances

TORONTO — As residents and travellers on the U.S. East Coast brace for the arrival of Hurricane Florence, a “poorly organized” Isaac is thankfully weakening as it heads into the Caribbean.

Meanwhile Tropical Storm Olivia is forecast to drench Hawaii today, passing between Maui and The Island of Hawaii.

As reported yesterday on Travelweek.ca airlines including Air Canada and WestJet have issued travel advisories and waived change fees for a long list of gateways impacted by all three storms.

The latest reports say communities along the Carolina coast have buttoned up against the onslaught of Hurricane Florence as forecasters warned that the storm could hesitate just offshore for days, punishing a longer stretch of coastline than previously feared, before pushing its way inland.

The National Hurricane Center’s projected track had Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast from Thursday night until landfall Saturday morning or so, about a day later than previously expected. The track also shifted somewhat south and west, throwing Georgia into peril as Florence moves inland.

The overall trend is “exceptionally bad news,” says University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it “smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge.”

As of 8 a.m. today, Florence, a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm, was centred 855 kilometres southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 28 kph. It was packing winds of 215 kph and enough moisture to dump feet of rain on the region.

“This is not going to be a glancing blow,” said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”

While some said they planned to stay put despite hurricane watches and warnings extending over the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast, many weren’t taking any chances.

Steady streams of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland Tuesday as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone on North Carolina’s coast to flee.

“The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster,” he said.

All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast. But getting out of harm’s way has proved difficult since airlines were cancelling flights and motorists had a hard time finding fuel.

Florence is by far the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.

Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Haiti, the D.R. and Cuba.

Meanwhile Hurricane Helene is moving northward away from land. Forecasters are also tracking two other disturbances.

The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet of water in spots, according to projections.

With files from The Associated Press

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