• Hurricane Florence slightly weaker, but expanding, producing more extensive impacts

    By: Irene Sans


    5 p.m. update:

    Florence has weakened a bit, down to 120 mph, continues to creep to the Carolina Coast. But don't be fooled by this weakening, the wind field continues to expand, making this storm overall stronger by producing larger swells and large (future) storm surge. 


    The Major Hurricane is moving to the northwest at 16 mph and will continue head this directing until late Thursday or early Friday when it is expected to be less than 60 miles from Wilmington, North Carolina, and shift to the west, possibly the southwest. The current track has greatly shifted Florence to make landfall near Myrtle beach South Carolina Saturday. 


    Scroll down for indirect impacts to Central Florida


    Since Florence will be bordering the coast for at least 36 hours starting early Friday, coastal damages will likely be catastrophic along the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts. Life-threatening storm surge and it will also coincide with the astronomical high tide at some point. 


    "Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern and central Appalachians late this week into early next week, as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland, " explained the National Hurricane Center in their latest advisory.


    See the Latest: Florence's track




    11 a.m. update
    The storm was centered 485 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 15 mph.


    “Florence has been a tricky storm from the start, and the end game with it isn’t known yet. It will move toward North Carolina, where it could stall along the coast, then drift toward the South Carolina/Georgia border. This is all to the north of us, but up there, it impacts even more people,” Severe Weather Center 9 meteorologist Brian Shields said.


    Tropics Update: Isaac, Helene, another storm forms in Gulf of Mexico


    It's a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm with 130 mph maximum sustained winds.


    Waters are very warm under Florence, which could aid further strengthening Wednesday. It is still possible that the hurricane could reach Category 5 status with winds above 157 mph.


    A steady stream of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland Tuesday, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone 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," Cooper said.

    Scroll down for indirect impacts to Central Florida


    Most models show a significant slowdown once it reaches the North Carolina coast as either a very strong Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane. Forecasts show the storm stalling several hundred miles inland and weakening. But if the hurricane stalls at the coast due to a blocking high pressure area, torrential rain and destructive winds could bring catastrophic damage.



    For now, the track calls for Florence to make landfall late Friday morning and then travel very slowly inland as it gradually weakens. By Sunday evening, its remnants will only have traveled inland several hundred miles.


    See the Latest: Florence's track


    There is still time for the trajectory and landfall to vary as it approaches land. In fact, its positioning could slightly shift east or west even within a few hours of landfall as the hurricane will continue to rebuild its center and wobble.


    See the Latest: Watch & Warnings


    What does Florence mean to Central Florida?

    Central Florida will not be directly affected by Florence. There will be some collateral effects such as very large swells and high risk of rip currents. The highest seas will arrive Thursday, reaching 6 to 10 feet along the Brevard/Volusia beaches. There could be coastal flooding and some beach erosion farther north.


    East Coast beach conditions: Wave heights & winds


    As Florence continues to vacuum in lots of moisture, drier air will be in place across Central Florida for the rest of the week and into the weekend. Rain chances are at or below 30 percent across the area, limiting isolated storms mainly during the late afternoon.


    Download: Free WFTV weather app to receive weather, lightning alerts



    Threats for the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states

    Storm surge: A life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the coastline in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. The greatest storm surge forecast will likely be from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo, and Bay Rivers where storm surge can reach 9 to 13 feet. From North Myrtle Beach to Cape Fear, a 6 to 9 feet storm surge is possible.

    Flooding: 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. Amounts could reach 15 to 25 inches with some places reaching over 35 inches during the entire event.


    Wind: Tropical storm force winds will arrive by Thursday evening to the Carolinas. Residents are prompted to finish preparations by Thursday morning. The winds will gradually increase to damaging hurricane-force winds. Damaging winds could also spread well inland into portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.


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


    Watch: Eye On The Tropics


    Read more: Hurricane, tropical storm and tropical depression: What’s the difference?


    We will continue to monitor Florence closely and bring you updates promptly on Channel 9, WFTV.com and on our WFTV apps. We have sent a crew to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to bring you the latest on Florence.



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