MINUTE-BY-MINUTE: Potentially catastrophic Florence eyes Carolina coast

Potentially catastrophic Florence eyes Carolina coast

Latest outlook for local areas:

  • Just after noon on Monday, Hurricane Florence intensified into a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds
  • Forecasts show it may intensify to a Category 5 storm
  • Based on the most recent track, the Carolina coast will see hurricane-force winds, major storm surge, and widespread flooding from Florence
  • Landfall looks to be Thursday afternoon, close to Wilmington
  • Highest impact areas will be from Myrtle Beach northward to the Outer Banks, with dangerous currents and surf
  • The Charlotte-area will see tropical storm-force winds, bands of very heavy rain, and heavy flooding threats -- especially for our eastern counties
  • Tropical storm-force winds can be felt in Charlotte as early as Wednesday night, and depending on the path, we could feel winds in excess of 75 mph

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>> Watch the video below for Severe Weather Center 9's latest forecast update on Hurricane Florence.

>> We'll have team coverage from all angles to get you ready for Florence's likely impact on the Carolinas, on Eyewitness News.

>> Stay updated on the storm and its latest track by downloading our weather app.

Hurricane content:

Minute-by-minute developments on Hurricane Florence:

10:20 p.m.: President Donald Trump approves North Carolina and South Carolina emergency declarations in anticipation of Hurricane Florence.

“The president's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency  to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures,” The White House said in a news release.

FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize and provide, at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.


7:30 p.m.

Long lines at gas station pumps have already started. People are stocking up on bottled water, clearing the shelves at several stores. Bread and milk are also scarce.


4:55 p.m.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district said it is rescheduling all high school home varsity football games from Friday, Sept. 14 to Wednesday, Sept. 12 because of the impending storm.

District leaders said decisions on all other athletic events scheduled for this week will be made at a later time.

As of 4:30 p.m. Monday, CMS officials said schools will remain open and on a normal schedule this week.

Lancaster County may utilize its school buses to help with evacuations because of their size and ground clearance.

If schools close, then officials won’t use them so there is a possibility they will send the buses to the coast.

Last week, Rock Hill schools began preparing with fuel, sandbags, chainsaws and making sure back-up generators were ready to go.


2 p.m.

A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for residents living along the entire South Carolina coast.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation to start at noon Tuesday as Hurricane Florence approaches. The order applies to all eight counties along the coast: Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, and Berkeley counties.

He says storm surge could reach as high as 10 feet (3 meters) and estimates 1 million residents will be leaving the coast. Eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 heading into Charleston and U.S. 501 heading into Myrtle Beach will be reversed when the order takes effect.

McMaster has already declared a state of emergency in South Carolina and asked President Donald Trump for a federal declaration ahead of the storm, which intensified Monday to a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (195 kph).

Forecasters say the hurricane's strength is expected to fluctuate but it still will be a dangerous storm by the time it reaches the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.


2 p.m.

Charlotte city leaders listed a few things you can do to make sure you're ready for this storm.

Make sure you have at least three days’ worth of supplies, so if you lose power, you have enough food, water and medicine.

Check the storm drains in your neighborhood. If you can help clean them out now, that'll help city workers tremendously.

Officials said they've been checking equipment to make sure everything is working and ready to go.


1:45 p.m.

North Carolina's governor says consistency of the Hurricane Florence's forecast track toward the Carolinas has helped the state understand the threat early on and given it time to get ready.
Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference at the state's Emergency Operations Center that the North Carolina is in the "bull's-eye" of the rapidly strengthening storm.

Cooper said he asked President Donald Trump for a federal disaster declaration so that resources will be ready when the storm arrives. Cooper already issued a state of emergency late last week.

The governor said residents should prepare for ocean surge, strong winds, and inland flooding. Thousands of law enforcement officers, National Guard troops, and government workers are focusing on storm preparations.

State emergency management officials already are considering whether to recommend counties evacuate some homes along the Tar, Lumber and Neuse rivers. High waters from the rivers impacted homes and businesses after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.


1:45 p.m.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has notified businesses and consumers that the price gouging law is in effect to protect people from scammers.

The law, which bans charging too much during a time of crisis, is tied directly to a declaration of a state of emergency.

The statute went into effect when Governor Cooper declared the emergency Friday and will stay in effect for the entire state until the state of emergency is lifted.

Attorney General Stein and the North Carolina Department of Justice will be reviewing complaints from consumers.

To report potential price gouging call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint here.


1:15 p.m.

American Airlines released a travel alert for 25 airports as it continues to monitor Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Olivia. The airline has not canceled any flights at this time, but has issued waivers for Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Olivia which will allow customers whose travel plans have been impacted to rebook without penalty. The waivers are posted here.


12:05 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center has upgraded Florence to a Category 4 storm.

Data from an NOAA Hurricane Hunter indicate that Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 mph and a minimum central pressure of 946 mb


11:20 a.m.

Families looking to get out of the house ahead of Hurricane Florence are welcome at the Cabarrus County Fair. Kasia Thompson, a Cabarrus County spokesperson, said the fair is open “rain or shine,” and many rides operate during wet weather.

Emergency officials are keeping an eye on Hurricane Florence, which is forecasted to make landfall on the North Carolina Coast late Thursday night, into Friday morning.

Thompson told Channel 9 it’s too soon to say whether the hurricane will impact the fair later this week, but for now, it’s open for family fun.

Channel 9 meteorologists have forecasted the chance for storms, unrelated to Florence, throughout the week. Thompson said rides and outdoor attractions will close in the event of lightning, so check the forecast before heading to the fair.

The fair runs through Saturday, Sept. 15.

You can learn about events at the fair, including performances, a petting zoo, and the "butterfly encounter" here.


11 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence has intensified to a Category 3 hurricane.


10:30 a.m. 

Dare County has issued a state of emergency and a mandatory evacuation order for all visitors and residents on Hatteras Island beginning Monday, Sept. 10 at 12 p.m.

This includes all areas of Hatteras Island -- the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for residents and visitors in other areas of Dare County beginning Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7 a.m.

These areas include towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Manteo, Roanoke Island, and the Dare County mainland.


10:25 a.m.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools issued a statement regarding potential impacts of Hurricane Florence on school operations.

"The safety of students and staff is our top priority. The district is monitoring Hurricane Florence and will update you as needed as we do for other weather events. At this time, Monday, Sept. 10, all CMS Schools, transportation, and operations are on a normal schedule. 

If there are any changes, CMS will advise any changes through CMS social media, the CMS website, Connect messages in English and Spanish, notice to area media outlets, and messaging through CMS school principals."


9:45 a.m.

The current forecast for Hurricane Florence means the North Carolina coast could face a storm of unprecedented strength.

North Carolina has only been hit by one Category 4 hurricane since reliable records have been kept more than 150 years ago. Hurricane Hazel came ashore at the South Carolina-North Carolina state line with winds of 130 mph in 1954.

The state has only been hit by about a dozen Category 3 storms since 1850. The last was Hurricane Fran in 1996, which came ashore near Wilmington. South Carolina has been hit by three Category 4 storms: Hazel; Gracie, in 1959; and Hugo, in 1989.

Forecasters said Monday the storm to come ashore by late Thursday or early Friday. Some computer models show the storm making landfall near Wilmington, south of the Outer Banks. But it was still too early to predict an exact path for the storm.


9 a.m.

Hurricane Florence is aiming for a region of the U.S. East Coast that is especially vulnerable to storm surge and flooding from heavy rains.

Experts have warned for years of the danger hurricanes pose to a region stretching from Virginia Beach at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to Charleston, South Carolina, where the land is sinking and the ocean is rising at some of the highest rates on the East Coast.

The Center for Sea Level Rise at Old Dominion University in Virginia says cities built on low coastal planes and former creek beds are particularly vulnerable.


8 a.m.

Hurricane Florence appears to be taking aim at the largest U.S. Marine Corps base on the East Coast.

Camp Lejeune has an extensive beachfront about 50 miles northeast of Wilmington and it's well within the National Hurricane Center's forecast "cone."

The hurricane's path was still far from certain Monday. The rapidly intensifying storm could strike a direct and dangerous blow anywhere from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic region later this week, possibly as a fearsome category 4.

If the center of the hurricane does come ashore in the Wilmington area, some of the strongest winds and rain could strike the sprawling Marine base since much of the worst weather will be in the northeast quadrant of the storm.

Camp Lejeune said in a statement that it's urging personnel to prepare now, and will open shelters on the base if necessary.


5:15 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence is rapidly strengthening and that swells generated by the storm are affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast.

The Miami-based center said in its 5 a.m. ET advisory that Florence was about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving west northwest at 9 mph. An increase in forward speed is expected over the next couple of days.

Its maximum sustained winds are at 105 mph. Drawing energy from the warm water, the now Category 2 storm could be a fearsome Category 4 with winds of 130 mph or more by Tuesday. Florence is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday.


3 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Isaac has become the fifth hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season.

The Miami-based center said late Sunday that Isaac was about 1305 miles east of the Windward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. The storm was moving west at 14 mph and expected to accelerate over the next 36 hours.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 10 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles.

A westward motion is forecast to continue through the end of the week, with Isaac expected to move across the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea Wednesday night or Thursday. Weakening is forecast to begin by the middle of the week.

Potentially 'disastrous' Florence takes aim at Carolina coast

Rapidly intensifying Hurricane Florence could strike a direct and dangerous blow anywhere from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic region later this week.

Florence crossed the 96 mph threshold from Category 1 hurricane to Category 2 Monday morning as the National Hurricane Center warned a hurricane hunter plane found the storm strengthening quickly.

Forecasters said Florence was expected to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane sometime Monday and remain that way for days.

Channel 9 will have continuing coverage of Hurricane Florence and its potential impacts along the Carolina coast.

To receive the latest hurricane alerts, download the WSOCTV news app and tap the blue "Hurricanes" tag.

As of 5 a.m. Monday, Florence was a Category 2 storm centered about 675 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 9 mph. Its maximum sustained winds are at 105 mph. Drawing energy from the warm water, it could be a fearsome Category 4 with winds of 130 mph or more by Tuesday, the Miami-based center said.

Forecasters said it is too early to know the exact path the storm will take but warned that it could roll ashore in the Carolinas by Thursday. But authorities were taking no chances as the governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm.

>> Gov. Roy Cooper will hold a Hurricane Florence press briefing at 11 a.m. Monday, which will be streamed LIVE here.

The current track has Florence making landfall near Wilmington Thursday afternoon and evening and turning to a very strong tropical storm on Friday.

According to meteorologist John Ahrens, it is likely that once Florence makes landfall, it will sit over the Carolinas for some time. This will likely be a big problem not just Thursday but potentially through the entire weekend. If it moves closer inland, there will be more impact to Charlotte. Some computer models keep the storm just offshore though, which would lessen the local impact.

Forecasters say the storm is expected to become a "major hurricane" early this week and is predicted to approach the southeast U.S. coast by Thursday. 

Stay updated on the storm and its latest track by downloading our weather app.

Navy ships off Virginia's coast are getting set to sail out of the path of the powerful hurricane, one North Carolina university, UNC Wilmington, has canceled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies even with Florence still far out at sea southeast of Bermuda.

People up and down the densely populated coast were told to be ready for the worst -- and not just for a possible direct blow against the coast. They warned that Florence could slow or stall on or near shore, with some forecasting models showing it could unload a foot or two of rain in places, causing devastating inland flooding.

Forecasters also warned of a rising threat of life-threatening storm surge, along with the damage of a hurricane's high winds.

Red flags flying on beaches warned swimmers to stay out of waters as seas began kicking up. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes and fill sandbags and secure their homes.

"Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore," South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. The state's emergency management agency said it is "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster."

In Charleston, South Carolina, along the coast, city officials offered sandbags to residents. Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune urged people to secure their homes but said it was too early to know if evacuations will be ordered.

Myrtle Beach hardware stores and supermarkets were busy ringing up sales of bottled water, plywood and generators.

"Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water," Ryan Deeck, grocery department manager at a Walmart, told The Sun News. "They're coming in and buying water and plates, and that's about all they're buying."

North Carolina officials started getting bulldozers and chainsaws ready.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, about 20 miles from the coast, some residents picked up hurricane supplies during their normal weekend shopping, The Daily News reported. Ilija Cesal told the newspaper he wouldn't worry about buying extra water or other supplies for a few more days.

"I'll see by Wednesday how that goes - we got over 48 hours before that happens," Cesal said.

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As Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington canceled classes and encouraged its students to leave campus for a safer location.

That means students are urged but not required to leave and classes are canceled.

A statement from the university says officials will continue monitoring the forecast and that additional actions required may include a mandatory evacuation or campus closure.

Coastal Carolina University said they will operate as normal on Monday but classes would be canceled starting Tuesday.

In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told its employees they should not leave their vehicles parked at the sprawling base in coming days because of the flood threat. The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.


Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line re-routed its cruise ships.

Officials say the effects of Hurricane Florence are already being felt along the North Carolina coast.

The National Weather Service in Morehead City said swells from the storm will lead to dangerous rip currents in certain coastal areas Sunday. Beachgoers were recommended to stay out of the water.

On the Outer Banks, the town of Nags Head said it had posted no-swimming flags on beaches. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore also urged people to stay out of the ocean.


North Carolina remains under a state of emergency issued by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper also warned of inland damages such as river flooding and power outages as seen during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

"Experience has shown us that storms and heavy wind and rain can affect the entire state, so we must all be alert and ready," Cooper said.

To read Gov. Roy Cooper's statement and how North Carolina is preparing for the storm, click here.

Charlotte-area residents already stocking up for Florence

Channel 9 spoke with a Lowe’s manager near Northlake Mall who said the biggest demand so far is generators.

The manager also said the store has other supplies you might need, including gas cans, batteries and bottles of water.


Lowe's emergency control center experts are closely watching the storms to see what areas may be hit hardest and what supplies they might need.

“In my career with the company, it seems that they mostly react,” Lowe’s manager Jennifer Melvin said. “They're watching the weather, but not until we get the confirmation that the storm is coming that they will rush into stores and buy what we have left."