Hurricane Florence makes landfall, bringing storm surges, flooding and power outages

Hurricane Florence made landfall on the North Carolina coastline on Friday, bringing with it expected storm surges, flooding and power outages, with forecasters warning that a slight weakening of wind speed did not mean the storm will not cause major damage.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles (315 kilometers). The slow-moving storm was downgraded to a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The Miami-based center warned that the downgrade does little to remove the high risk. Florence is bringing “catastrophic” fresh water flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas, it said.

The eye of the hurricane is “wobbling slowly southwestward near the coast of southeastern North Carolina,” the agency said in its latest advisory.

BBC News and other media outlets were broadcasting images of flooding and rising sea levels as the storm moved in. The North Carolina city of New Bern was the site of major flooding and at least 200 people have already been rescued, according to the Weather Channel, some of whom had managed to climb up to their own rooftops. The authorities had issued mandatory evacuation orders for coastal areas, but not everyone was able to comply at short notice.

CNN said still others are awaiting rescue as the storm surge reached 10 feet.

Florence is expected to dump more than 3 feet of rainfall on parts of coastal North Carolina. A storm surge is expected to push coastal waters up to 13 feet above ground, if it coincides with high tide. Winds and heavy rain are expected to move inland too and to last for days.

“Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern and central Appalachians late this week into early next week, as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland,” the NHC said.

Residents hunker down for the big storm.

The hurricane is expected be the strongest storm to hit the region since Hurricane Hugo struck 29 years ago. The population of the Carolinas has grown by about 5 million people since then.

Rainfall over the Appalachians could lead to rock and mud slides, downing trees and saturating soil, it warned.

The hurricane is expected be the strongest storm to hit the region since Hurricane Hugo struck 29 years ago. The population of the Carolinas has grown by about 5 million people since then.

Charlotte, N.C.–based utility Duke Energy DUK, -0.96% warned customers in the Carolinas to brace for power outages, that could take weeks to repair. About 500,000 people in North Carolina had lost power by midmorning, according to the Weather Channel.

A total of 1,204 flights had been canceled on Friday, according to tracker FlightAware, the majority of them to towns and cities in the hurricane path. As many as 6,751 flights have been delayed.

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Meanwhile, the two storms that are churning behind Florence have weakened, easing concerns of a repeat of 2017’s record hurricane season, when the storms called Harvey, Irma and Maria caused more than $200 billion of losses, according to reinsurer Munich Re.

The storm known as Hurricane Helene was downgraded to a tropical storm and was last located about 725 miles southwest of the Azores with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles an hour. The former Hurricane Isaac, now a tropical depression, has maximum sustained winds of 35 miles an hour.

Tropical storm Joyce was churning about 1090 miles west-southwest of the Azores with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles an hour.

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The Atlantic was not the only region experiencing storm conditions. The Pacific hurricane named Olivia was downgraded to a tropical depression. That storm is bad news for a Hawaii still cleaning up after Hurricane Lane caused massive rainfall, flooding and landslides in August.

As the chart illustrates, Hurricane Katrina, the storm that devastated New Orleans in 2005, remains the costliest ever for the U.S.

But 2017’s trio of hurricanes combined to create a record season. Hurricane Harvey caused the most damage in Texas, where it poured more than 30 inches of rain on 6.9 million people, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, where its cost, both human and to property, is still being calculated.

CoreLogic, which tracks property data, estimates that the property damage from Florence could top between $3 billion and $5 billion in losses, which has been expanded to include a wind and storm surge but does not include insured losses related to rainfall, riverine or other flooding. Read more on that here.

Among the insurers expected to feel pressure are Travelers TRV, -0.03% Allstate ALL, +0.28% Chubb CB, +0.43%  and Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A, +0.73% BRK.B, +0.23% according to J.P. Morgan. And restaurant stocks like Cracker Barrel CBRL, -1.65%  are also in the firing line. Those stocks were trading higher Thursday.

On the other side, companies that offer goods and services needed in the run-up and aftermath of a storm may fare well, such as Home Depot HD, -0.27% Thor Industries THO, +2.73% Avis CAR, +0.68% and United Rentals URI, +0.10% to name a few. Check out more companies that could get bumped higher here.

The S&P 500 SPX, +0.06%  and the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.09%  were up 0.3%.

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