UPDATED: Tropical Storm Florence headed towards the East Coast

UPDATED 9/13 9:00 a.m.

Squally rain bands with tropical-storm-force winds moved ashore along the Outer Banks this morning as Hurricane Florence neared land. A life-threatening storm surge and powerful winds will follow.

The Washington, D.C., area appears to have lucked out. The latest models and forecasts show Hurricane Florence tracking farther south of the D.C. area, potentially decreasing its impact locally. However, heavy rain is still expected and flooding conditions may occur over the next several days.

At 9:00 a.m., the center of Hurricane Florence was 170 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C., and was moving toward the northwest at about  12 mph. This general motion, accompanied by a gradual decrease in forward speed, is expected to continue through Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The Carolinas and Virginia have been preparing for the storm since Monday. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has issued a mandatory evacuation order for coastal Virginia residents in Zone A in advance of Hurricane Florence, effective Tuesday, September 11 at 8 a.m. Zone A includes low-lying areas of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore. Residents of Zone A are urged to move to higher ground. Information about shelters will be available soon.

Virginians in coastal areas can see which zone they live in by going to knowyourzoneva.org.

Colleges in the storm’s path have canceled classes, schools have announced they will close in advance of the storm’s approach and thousands of events — too many to list — have been canceled.

Latest weather statement

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for...
* South Santee River South Carolina to Duck North Carolina
* Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, including the Neuse and Pamlico
Rivers

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for...
* Edisto Beach South Carolina to South Santee River South Carolina
* North of Duck North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia border

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...
* South Santee River South Carolina to Duck North Carolina
* Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...
* Edisto Beach South Carolina to South Santee River South Carolina

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...
* North of Duck North Carolina to Cape Charles Light Virginia
* Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort

Interests elsewhere in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic states
should monitor the progress of Florence.

A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening
inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline. For
a depiction of areas at risk, please see the National Weather
Service Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic, available at
hurricanes.gov.  This is a life-threatening situation.  Persons
located within these areas should take all necessary actions to
protect life and property from rising water and the potential for
other dangerous conditions.  Promptly follow evacuation and other
instructions from local officials.

A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life-
threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the
coastline.

A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected
somewhere within the warning area, in this case within the next 12
to 24 hours.  Preparations to protect life and property should be
nearing completion.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible
within the watch area.  A watch is typically issued 48 hours
before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force
winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or
dangerous.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are
expected somewhere within the warning area.

For storm information specific to your area, including possible
inland watches and warnings, please monitor products issued by your
local National Weather Service forecast office.


DISCUSSION AND OUTLOOK
----------------------
At 800 AM EDT (1200 UTC), the center of the eye of Hurricane
Florence was located by an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft
and NOAA Doppler weather radars to be near latitude 33.1 North,
longitude 75.1 West. Florence is moving slower toward the northwest
at about 12 mph (20 km/h). This general motion, accompanied by a
further decrease in forward speed, is expected to continue through
today. A turn to the west-northwest and west at an even slower
forward speed is expected tonight and Friday, and a slow
west-southwestward motion is forecast Friday night and Saturday.  On
the forecast track, the center of Florence will approach the coasts
of North and South Carolina later today, then move near or over the
coast of southern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina in the
hurricane warning area tonight and Friday. A slow motion over
eastern South Carolina is forecast Friday night through Saturday
night.

Maximum sustained winds are near 110 mph (175 km/h) with higher
gusts. Little change in strength is expected before the center
reaches the coast, with weakening expected after the center moves
inland.

Florence is a large hurricane. Hurricane-force winds extend outward
up to 80 miles (130 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force
winds extend outward up to 195 miles (315 km).

The estimated minimum central pressure based on reports from the
the aircraft is 956 mb (28.23 inches).


HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
----------------------
STORM SURGE:  The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the
tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by
rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.  The water has the
potential to reach the following heights above ground if peak surge
occurs at the time of high tide...

Cape Fear NC to Cape Lookout NC, including the Neuse, Pamlico,
Pungo, and Bay Rivers...9-13 ft
North Myrtle Beach SC to Cape Fear NC...6-9 ft
Cape Lookout NC to Ocracoke Inlet NC...6-9 ft
South Santee River SC to North Myrtle Beach SC...4-6 ft
Ocracoke Inlet NC to Salvo NC...4-6 ft
Salvo NC to North Carolina/Virginia Border...2-4 ft
Edisto Beach SC to South Santee River SC...2-4 ft

The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of
onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and
destructive waves.  Surge-related flooding depends on the relative
timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over
short distances.  For information specific to your area, please see
products issued by your local National Weather Service forecast
office.

RAINFALL: Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive
rainfall in the following areas...

Coastal North Carolina into far northeastern South Carolina...20 to
30 inches, isolated 40 inches. This rainfall would produce
catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river
flooding.

Rest of South and North Carolina into southwest Virginia...6 to 12
inches, isolated 24 inches.

WIND:  Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast within
the hurricane warning area this evening or early Friday.  Winds are
expected to first reach tropical storm strength by later this
morning or early this afternoon, making outside preparations
difficult or dangerous.  Preparations to protect life and property
should be nearing completion.

TORNADOES:  A few tornadoes are possible in eastern North Carolina
through Friday.

SURF:  Swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda, portions
of the U.S. East Coast, and the northwestern and central Bahamas.
These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip
current conditions. Please consult products from your local weather
office.

What to do

Preparedness Action To Take Today

Fairfax County advises taking these steps now to prepare for Florence.

  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and that water flows away from your home.
  • If you live in an area prone to flooding or have had flooding in the past, take precautions to move valuables from the basement; at least move items off the floor onto higher shelves if possible.
  • Check your emergency supply kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications or other medical supplies. Be sure to you have extra batteries and flashlights in case you lose electricity.
  • Purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA weather radio. Find an online NOAA radio station or download the NOAA radio app for your smartphone (Apple Store | Google Play).
  • Review your family’s emergency plan. Does your family know what to do or where to go in case of an emergency or localized flooding? And be sure you know what to do with pets.
  • Fill plastic bottles with clean water for drinking.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank in case you need to evacuate your home or seek shelter elsewhere.
  • Sign up for severe weather alerts from Fairfax Alerts. You can receive these alerts by email and text.

And finally, local creeks and streams are already rising and many reaching capacity. Do not let children play in or near streams or creeks due to the potentially rapidly rising waters.