Wilmington : Winds and waves began battering the Carolinas yesterday as officials warned that Hurricane Florence -- while weakening slightly -- remains a “very dangerous storm” capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the US East Coast. “Just because the wind speed came down, the intensity of this storm came down to a Cat 2, please do not let your guard down,” warned Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm overnight on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale but it is still packing hurricane-force winds of 105 miles per hour (165 kilometers per hour), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Winds were already picking up along the coastline on Thursday morning and Myrtle Beach was virtually deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic. “I was feeling fine until I woke up this morning and this is a ghost town,” said Kristin Beard, a 40-year-old Myrtle Beach marketer. “I’m going to Charlotte.” At 11:00 am (1500 GMT), Florence was over the Atlantic Ocean about 145 miles (230 kms) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph), the NHC said. Steve Goldstein with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Florence’s forward motion had slowed overnight and it was not expected to make landfall in the Carolinas for “another 36 hours.”
“Sometime Friday afternoon, Friday evening or Saturday morning,” Goldstein said. He said hurricane-force winds extend outward 80 miles (130 kms) from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extend nearly 200 miles (322 kms) out. A storm surge of nine to 12 feet (2.7-3.6 meters) was expected along the North Carolina coast, Goldstein said, and some areas could receive as much as 40 inches (one meter) of rain. A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.