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Saturday December 14th, 2019 10:37AM

The Latest: Charleston mayor tells citizens to flee Florence

By The Associated Press

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Florence (all times local):

8:55 a.m.

The mayor of a South Carolina city in the path of powerful Hurricane Florence is warning citizens to get out or stay "at your own peril."

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg told CNN on Wednesday that the nearly 135,000 residents of his historic coastal city should leave now before the storm arrives later in the week.

Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered evacuations in counties along the state's coast, including Charleston. All lanes of Interstate 26 are westbound to allow more people to leave the coast and head inland toward the state capital of Columbia.

Tecklenburg said his flood-prone city is preparing for "copious rain" by clearing out the city's drainage system and getting boats and portable pumps ready. Many areas in the low-lying city flood with routine rain storms, causing street closures and detours.

___

8:30 a.m.

The National Weather Service says Hurricane Florence "will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast."

That's saying a lot, given the impacts from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew.

Forecasters in Wilmington, North Carolina, are emphasizing the potential for what they're calling "unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding."

With predicted rainfall measured in feet not inches, forecasters say people living along creeks and rivers in the Carolinas should move to higher ground well ahead of the storm's arrival.

___

8 a.m.

The 8 a.m. forecast on Hurricane Florence reinforces projections that the storm's path will shift slightly to the southeast as it closes in on the Carolinas.

The center of the Category 4 Hurricane, still swirling with top winds of 130 mph (215 kph), was about 530 miles (855 kilometers) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, approaching the coast at 17 mph (28 kph).

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says damaging winds and rain could begin hitting the coast late Thursday, pushing a storm surge that could reach 13 feet in places. Rain will continue through Sunday, dumping feet of water over a wide area.

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5:00 a.m.

A dangerous Hurricane Florence is steadily making its way to the U.S. East Coast.

At 5 a.m., the storm was centered 575 miles (925 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph (28 kph). Strengthening is forecast through Wednesday.

It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph (253 kph) or higher.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

___

2:20 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to portions of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states.

At 2 a.m., the storm was centered 625 miles (1,005 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph (28 kph). Strengthening is forecast through Wednesday. It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph (253 kph) or higher.

Forecasters say the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday, and approach the coast of the Carolinas in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday.

___

11 p.m.

Residents on the Carolina coast are finding empty gas pumps and depleted store shelves as they flee a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence.

With the storm churning across the Atlantic with 140 mph winds, hurricane watches and warnings include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast. A steady stream of vehicles filled with people and belongings is moving inland.

Forecasters say Florence is expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and dump 1 to 2½ feet of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
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