Hurricane Florence: 'Once in a lifetime' storm nears US east coast

Myrtle Beach Florence The Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina facing the effects of the approach of Hurricane Florence | AFP

The outer edge of Hurricane Florence began hitting the US east coast late on Thursday. Florence, described by weather forecasters as a “once in a lifetime” storm, could trigger massive flooding when it makes landfall in the Carolinas by midday or evening on Friday (local time).

Approximately 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia were issued voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders on Wednesday as Florence approached the region.

Florence had been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane late on Wednesday, but officials warned residents not to “let your guard down”, as wind speeds of up to 150kmph are expected. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said, “"This storm will bring destruction.”

In addition to high-speed winds caused by Florence, forecasters have warned of some areas receiving up to 40 inches of rainfall, which could trigger “catastrophic” flash floods and “prolonged significant river flooding”.

South Carolina issued mandatory evacuation orders for 1 million residents of coastal areas expected to be hit by Florence, while in Virginia, 245,000 people in coastal areas have been told to move.

A state of emergency had been declared earlier in the week in coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia as well as Washington DC as Florence approached the region.

(With agency inputs)