FIRST ALERT: Hurricane Florence continues towards the Carolinas

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    MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Hurricane Florence continues to intensify and remains a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds.

    At 11 p.m Monday, the eye of Hurricane Florence was located 1,100 miles southeast of Myrtle Beach.

    FLORENCE FORECAST

    As of the 11:00 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Florence is now a Category 4 storm located 1,100 miles from the Grand Strand.

    Florence is moving toward the west-northwest near 13 mph . This general motion with an increase in forward speed is expected during the next couple of days. A turn toward the northwest is forecast to occur late Wednesday night. On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.

    Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased near 140 mph with higher gusts. Florence is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir- Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Further strengthening is anticipated, and Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday.

    Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles.

    The National Hurricane Center emphasizes several important points for residents of the Carolinas;

    1. A life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the coastlines of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and a Storm Surge Watch will likely be issued for some of these areas by Tuesday morning. All interests from South Carolina into the mid-Atlantic region should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials.

    2. Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.

    3. Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina, and a Hurricane Watch will likely be issued by Tuesday morning. Damaging winds could also spread well inland into portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.

    4. Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast will continue this week, resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents.

    LOCAL IMPACTS

    WIND: Based on the latest forecast track, tropical storm force winds of over 40 mph are likely across the entire area late Thursday through early Friday. Hurricane Force wind gusts, over 74 mph, are possible across much of Horry County and for areas near the North Carolina border. Winds of this magnitude will be enough to cause scattered to widespread downed trees and powerlines. A slight shift southward in the track of Florence would result in significantly higher wind speeds that could reach and exceed 100 mph.

    FLOODING: Based on the latest forecast track, locally heavy rains of 4 to as much as 8 inches will be possible across much of the region late Thursday and Friday. Locally higher amounts are possible. Rainfall of this magnitude would likely lead to areas of flooding. A slight shift southward in the track of Florence would result in significantly higher rainfall amounts and major flooding.

    STORM SURGE: With a landfall north of the region, the vast majority of the wind from Florence would be off-shore. This would reduce the risk of major storm surge, but large battering waves and erosion are still likely. A track further south and closer to the Grand Strand would result in potentially devastating storm surge.

    FLORENCE SCENARIOS AND PROBABILITIES:

    1. SCENARIO 1. Landfall near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This would be the best case scenario for the Grand Strand and Pee Dee. Impacts would include some gusty winds, rain bands and very rough surf, but widespread damage would be confined to areas further north up the coast. Based on the latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center and the latest data from today’s forecast models, the probability of this scenario is 20%.

    2. SCENARIO 2. Landfall just north of the North Carolina, South Carolina Border. This scenario would likely deliver damaging winds, heavy rain and some storm surge to much of the area. Downed trees and powerlines along with areas of flooding would be likely. However, the most severe impacts including destructive winds and storm surge would be focused just north of the region. Based on the latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center and the latest data from today’s forecast models, the probability of this scenario is 60%.

    3. SCENARIO 3. Landfall over or just south of the Grand Strand. This scenario would deliver a devastating blow to the entire region with widespread destructive winds and and storm surge. This track would place Florence in the same category as Hugo and Hazel – the two most destructive storms in the region’s modern history. Based on the latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center and the latest data from today’s forecast models, the probability of this scenario is 20%. While that number may seem low, consider this – if you were told you had a 20% chance of being in a serious car accident on Thursday, you would take every precaution possible to avoid that. Use the same mindset as you prepare for Hurricane Florence.

    Each new advisory from the National Hurricane Center and each new forecast model, will gradually help to improve the landfall location and potential impacts to be expected locally.

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