PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Hurricane Florence continues to barrel toward the East Coast of the United States this morning as a dangerous and powerful Category 4 storm. A few changes have been made to the forecast in the past 24 hours, especially a more southern track which is now the more favorable solution for the storm as it eyes the Carolina coastline.
Florence remains strong with 130 mph winds and there is a good chance that it will continue to strengthen today and we could see winds up to 145-150 mph before landfall. At this time it is forecast to slow as it approaches the coastline late on Thursday and Thursday night, due to a blocking pattern setting just onshore in the southeast U.S.
This pattern is the cause for the southern shift of Florence in the last update from the National Hurricane Center. Right now, Florence is still looking like it could make landfall in the Wilmington or Cape Fear areas of North Carolina on Thursday night or early Friday morning, however, with the southern push, we have the potential for it to skirt along the coast without making landfall at all or potentially making landfall much farther south than originally anticipated. Even as we get inside of the about 36 hours until possible landfall, we need to remain vigilant to the possible changes we could see.
Overall, the direct threats from Florence are not likely to change. The extreme storm surge, strong winds, and flooding rain are still very much likely and are still going to be life-threatening across the entire coast from Virginia through South Carolina. Storm surge along the coast of North Carolina could be as high as 13 feet in areas and winds gusts could reach well over 100 mph.
Outside of the push of water onshore from the storm surge, Florence could possibly sit along or just off the shoreline, and we could be looking at rainfall amounts in the 20- to 30-inch range or possibly up to 40 inches in some localized areas. That means before this storm moves out we could see as much as 3-plus feet of rain in areas. This will still likely be a catastrophic hurricane for the Carolina coastline and could potentially be one of, if not the worst, natural disaster North and South Carolina have ever seen.
Closer to home, the southern push of the storm track is good news for area beaches. While winds are still likely to whip around, we could see coastal flooding and strong rip currents, the actual magnitude of those impacts will greatly decrease.
Right now, the greatest threats to the Jersey and Delaware beaches will be high waves and rough surf, dangerous rip currents, and beach erosion. Winds along the shore starting on Thursday afternoon could be in the 20 to 40 mph range with gusts as high as 40 to 45 mph at times throughout Thursday and into the weekend as well. This persistent on shore flow will be the catalyst for the beach erosion as well as coastal flooding we could see in the coming days. Direct impacts from outer rain bands is looking less likely this far north, especially if the hurricane continues to trend to the south. While right now a small chance is still there for a couple of the far northern bands to possibly reach the far southern areas of Delaware and New Jersey, the Philadelphia area will likely be devoid of any rain associated with Florence. Any true chance of seeing remnants of Florence in the Philly area will not come until the middle of next week, when the remnant tropical moisture could finally travel northward and spawn a few showers or a thunderstorm as early as Tuesday of next week.