From: David Crews
Latest Update: Saturday, September 15, 5:30 AM
Florence is now a tropical storm but will continue to threaten North and South Carolina with powerful winds and catastrophic freshwater flooding. Its top sustained winds have dropped to 70 mph, and it’s at a near standstill, moving west at just 3 mph.
Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from its center. Florence is producing tropical storm-force wind gusts in Florence, South Carolina, about 60 miles from the coast, the National Hurricane Center said.
North Carolina Flooding Expected to Worsen
The National Weather Service says 14 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen north of Swansboro, North Carolina, and it’s only going to get worse. Weather Prediction Center senior forecaster David Roth said catastrophic flash flooding is expected to continue to worsen Friday.
Roth said the heavy rainfall for southeast North Carolina is only one-third to one-quarter the way over.
“Plenty of heavy rain remains in the future for this region,” Roth wrote in the weather center’s rain forecast discussion.
More Than 2,100 Flights Grounded
Airlines have canceled more than 2,100 U.S. flights from the storm’s approach on Wednesday through Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware. The region’s two largest airports, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, had more than 200 cancellations on Friday.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says Charleston International Airport in South Carolina isn’t expected to reopen until Monday night. Wilmington International in North Carolina expects to reopen at noon Saturday.
Rainfall Totals Could Be Staggering
Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at weathermodels dot com, calculates that Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain in seven days over the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.
That doesn’t quite measure up to the 25 trillion gallons Harvey dropped on Texas and Louisiana last year. Maue said Harvey stalled longer and stayed closer to the coast, which enabled it to keep sucking moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
Still, 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay. It’s enough to cover the entire state of Texas with nearly four inches of water. That much rain is 2.4 trillion cubic feet. It’s enough to cover Manhattan with nearly 3,800 feet of water, more than twice as high as the island’s tallest building.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough rain to cover the Tar Heel state in about 10 inches of water. Maue calculates that 34 million people will get at least 3 inches, with more than 5.7 million getting at least a foot and about 1.5 million getting 20 inches or more.
5 Deaths Reported So Far
At least five people were killed during the storm, authorities said. A mother and an infant were killed when a tree fell onto their home in Wilmington on Friday. The father was injured and transported to a nearby hospital, The Wilmington Police Department said.
Images showed firefighters responding to the scene and kneeling to pray. The firefighters were shaken up by what they witnessed at the scene, CBS affiliate WWAY reports.
Massive Power Outages Along the Coast
At least 490,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage dot us, which tracks the nation’s electrical grid.
The numbers are expected to soar as the storm’s winds and torrential rains sweep over more land. Duke anticipates 1 million to 3 million of their 4 million customers in the Carolinas will lose power from Florence.
Hurricane Florence could inflict the hardest hurricane punch North Carolina has seen in more than 60 years. In 1954, the state was hit by a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Hazel.
“Hazel stands as a benchmark storm in North Carolina’s history,” said Jay Barnes, author of books on the hurricane histories of both North Carolina and Florida. “We had a tremendous amount of destruction all across the state.”
Florence Hovering Near Cape Fear….Literally
The center of Hurricane Florence is hovering inland near Cape Fear, North Carolina. It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 80 mph, but stronger wind gusts have been reported.
Florence was centered about 20 miles southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 55 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. advisory. It was crawling west-southwest at 3 mph, lifting huge amounts of ocean moisture and dumping it far from the coast.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.
People worry and fear the worst for their property and possessions, and rightly so. Many may return to find destruction and ruin.
But they don’t have to find despair.
As a Christian, I want people to know God loves them and hasn’t forgotten them. A lot of people think when a storm comes that maybe God is mad at them, and He’s not. We share this simple, yet profound truth as we minister in crisis situations.
Franklin Graham said that Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are already ministering to people who have fled to evacuation centers. And as soon as the storm has passed, they will be going into hard hit areas with our Samaritan’s Purse teams who will be responding to the physical needs.
We don’t run from disasters – we run to them. We go to help people in Jesus’ Name. We work all over the world like this. And in every heartbreaking situation, I hear people from all walks of life say: “We’re just glad we have our lives and each other,” and, “My faith in God is the one thing that’s giving me hope.”
Fear. Storm. Flood. Fire. Tornado. Disease. Famine. War.
No matter the calamity, no matter the outcome, I want people who are suffering to know that God is their “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
You see, God’s not just there for us when things are going well, or when we still have a home. He’s there when the going is tough and the rug has been ripped out from under our feet – or soaked in the floodwaters.
And God uses people to bring hope and healing in times of trouble. Too often, especially here in America, we are guilty of seeing what divides us more often that what unites us: our common, intrinsic value as God’s creation, highly valued and greatly loved by Him.
Franklin Graham said “Every time I go out to a wrecked home where our volunteers are helping begin the recovery process, I am privileged to see that love shared and human dignity affirmed, often through tears, smiles, and sweaty hugs among hard-working people from all over the country.”
When you’re hurting, or are in a time of uncertainty, or don’t know where to turn, I want to encourage you to first turn upward and ask God for His help. He is always there. Then, turn to your left and right, find the people around you – some who you may not have met until this storm – and flash them a smile, give them a word of encouragement, and most of all, reach out with a helping hand.
As Christians who sincerely care, these is not a time for any theological speculation as to the “why’s” of this catastrophic, natural disaster—this is a “time for prayer”—for the millions who are forced to deal with loss, property damage, even death. Fortunately, many believers have taken up this prayer need and are praying as we speak.