RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA—South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says more than 300,000 people have already evacuated the state’s coasts ahead of Hurricane Florence.
McMaster told reporters Sept.12, that the storm could bring more rain to the state than 1989’s devastating Hurricane Hugo.
McMaster has ordered much of the state’s coastline evacuated, reversing some lanes of a major interstate to direct all traffic inland.
Forecasters warned as much as 15 inches could fall in some portions of the state through at least Sept. 18.
The head of the state’s National Guard also says the federal government has positioned aid ships off South Carolina’s coast and they’ll be ready to assist after the storm moves through.
Two of the nation’s largest motor speedways have opened their vast campgrounds to Southerners escaping Hurricane Florence, part of a patchwork of shelters across the region serving as a last refuge for storm evacuees.
But gas shortages and jammed freeways loomed for evacuees seeking safety in far-away shelters, campgrounds, and hotels. In North Carolina, 1 in 10 gas stations in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham had no gas by midday on Sept. 12.
At Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, personal belongings were spread across an open field where the first few evacuees arrived on Sept. 12.
Melody Rawson left her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, arriving at the Georgia speedway with two dogs and a cockatoo, and a couple of coolers holding some sandwich meat.
Bristol Motor Speedway, near the Tennessee-Virginia line, also opened its campgrounds to evacuees.
Portions of the Georgia coast face a growing threat of strong winds as Hurricane Florence nears the Southeast coast, but officials there aren’t calling for evacuations.
Dennis Jones is director of the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency that includes Savannah. Jones told a news conference Sept. 12, there’s a “moderate” chance sustained tropical storm winds could reach the area as soon as the evening of Sept. 13. He said some storm impacts could last through the weekend.
The National Hurricane Center predicts the Category 3 hurricane will strike the Carolinas later this week. But forecasters say there’s a chance the storm could turn to the southwest.
Jones said there’s currently no need for evacuations in the Savannah area, but that could change if the forecast worsens. He said there’s a low risk of flooding and storm surge risks are “very low.”
Hurricane Florence has gotten a little bit weaker but it remains a very large and dangerous storm.
At 2 p.m., the storm was centered 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 16 mph.
It’s a potentially catastrophic Category 3 storm with 125 mph maximum sustained winds.
Some fluctuations in strength are expected through the morning of Sept. 13. Florence will weaken once it stops drawing energy from warm ocean waters, but it’s still expected to make landfall late on Sept. 13 or early Sept. 14, as an extremely dangerous major hurricane.
The National Hurricane Center says a buoy about 100 miles northeast of Florence’s eye has clocked hurricane-force wind gusts and sustained winds of 53 mph.
Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.
As motorists try to get away from the path of Hurricane Florence they are learning that some service stations are running out of gasoline.
Patrick DeHaan is an analyst for GasBuddy, a service that tracks gasoline prices and outages.
DeHaan says there is plenty of gasoline in the region, but getting it from distribution terminals to stations is a challenge.
He says the situation is exacerbated because “everyone wants it at the same time.”
By midday Sept. 12, 5 percent of stations in North Carolina were out, including 10 percent of those in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham. In South Carolina, 2 percent of stations had run out and in Virginia, 1 percent.
DeHaan says truck stops and major chains with bigger supply systems are more likely to have gas than small stations.
Paula Baker carries flowers she’ll leave on her son’s grave that she plans on visiting after evacuating her home in Atlantic Beach, N.C., on Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Some airports in the Carolinas are shutting down as Hurricane Florence approaches, and American Airlines says it’s canceling 565 flights through the weekend.
American said Sept. 12, that it has stopped flying at Greenville, Jacksonville, and New Bern, North Carolina, and would shut down on the night of Sept. 12, in Wilmington and Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Florence, South Carolina.
American plans to stop flights in Columbia, South Carolina, and Hampton-Newport News, Virginia, on the evening of Sept. 13.
Most of the closures will run through Sept. 16, with a few lifting after Sept. 15.
American says it’s seeing no impact at its big hub in Charlotte, North Carolina, and expects only scattered cancellations through Sept. 15, at Raleigh-Durham.
Byard told a news conference at FEMA headquarters in Washington that the agency has all the resources it needs to react to the natural disaster.