Hurricane Florence: Life-threatening storm lands in North Carolina

Media captionHomes have been evacuated ahead of Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence is ravaging the US East Coast, knocking out power to half a million homes, causing buildings to crumble and stranding residents.

The centre of the storm made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, with gales of up to 90mph (150 km/h).

Rains and surging seas have already inundated coastal areas. Dozens of people were rescued from a collapsing hotel in North Carolina.

Evacuation warnings are in place for 1.7 million people.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference that whole communities “could be wiped away”.

“This is an uninvited brute that just won’t leave,” he told NBC.

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Some residents refuse to evacuate because not all shelters accept pets

National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear said North Carolina is likely to see eight months of rain in two to three days.

Thousands of miles away, meanwhile, a huge typhoon is moving towards the Philippines. More than five million people are in the path of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, officials say.

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Rescues have already begun in North Carolina

Conditions deteriorated on Friday as slow-moving Hurricane Florence crawled along at 3mph (4.8km/ h).

The National Hurricane Center says the tempest remains extremely dangerous because of the high volume of rainfall and predicted storm surges, even though its wind speeds lowered slightly on Thursday night, making it a category one hurricane.

By Friday morning, the North Carolina coastal town of Atlantic Beach had already received 30in (76cm) of rain, the US Geological Service said.

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The storm is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rainwater on US soil, most of it in North Carolina, meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted.

Hurricane Harvey last year dumped some 33 trillion gallons of rainwater in the US.

More than 505,000 homes and businesses are already without power, and energy companies warn up to three million homes and businesses could lose electricity.

Officials have warned restoring electricity could take days or even weeks.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, officials rescued about 60 people overnight from a hotel that was collapsing in the storm.

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This was the scene in New Bern, North Carolina

Emergency workers arrived to find the Triangle Motor Inn’s structure crumbling, with many guests still in their rooms.

As parts of the roof caved in, police had to force their way into some suites amid 75mph winds to reach those inside.

All of the occupants, who included children and pets, were safely rescued.

More than 20,000 people are meanwhile taking refuge in emergency shelters.

Several hundred people have been plucked to safety by authorities in the riverfront city of New Bern, North Carolina, parts of which are 10ft (3m) underwater.

Media captionPeople have left homes and taken precautions ahead of the hurricane

Local resident Peggy Perry told CNN she was “stuck in the attic” along with three relatives.

“In a matter of seconds, my house was flooded up to the waist, and now it is to the chest,” she added.

Officials have warned against entering attics, unless people have a means to cut through to the roof to avoid drowning.

At the White House, President Donald Trump has been retweeting local emergency officials’ updates and tips for surviving the storm.

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Officials say the water will likely cause more damage than the wind

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Children play games by torchlight after their hotel lost power

How long will this last?

Latest predictions show the storm slowing to a near standstill as it pummels the coast with “copious amounts of rain” from Thursday night to Saturday.

Wind speeds are only expected to weaken on Saturday as the storm moves slowly across land.

More than a dozen counties in North Carolina are under a tornado watch, with officials also warning of a chance of hail.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world’s deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane – in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific – or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

“Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma’s eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale – other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

“For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

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Is global warming to blame?

The relationship between climate change and hurricanes is a complex one.

Warmer seas power hurricanes. So as the temperature of ocean water goes up, we might expect the intensity of hurricanes to increase in future.

A hotter atmosphere can also hold more water, so this should allow hurricanes to dump more water on affected areas.

But there are so many factors that contribute to these rare events, it has been difficult to tease out clear trends from the data.

Are you in the area? How are you preparing for the hurricane? If it is safe to do so please tell us about your situation by emailing .

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist.

You can also contact us in the following ways:

Hurricane Florence: Life-threatening storm lands in North Carolina

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