Getting ready for Florence: NC Port extends operating hours to move freight ahead of Florence

  Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

4:15 PM EDT: Ports in the U.S. Southeast and East Coast remain open to ship traffic, but are monitoring Florence’s progress.

The North Carolina Port of Wilmington says it will extend gate closing for one hour, until 7 PM. both Monday and Tuesday to expedite container movements in and out of the Port.

The South Carolina Ports Authority says it is monitoring Florence’s progress. But the main Port of Charleston remains open with regular operating hours.

The Port of Virginia, too, remains open. But the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port, which has final say over ship movements in any of the ports, says sustained gale force winds are expected at the Virginia Capes within the next 72 hours. 

-- Michael Angell

12:15 PM EDT: The National Hurricane Center released an updated forecast around noon announcing Florence has been upgraded to a category 4 hurricane.

Data indicates the storm has reached 130 mph sustained winds.

11:15 AM EDT: Riskpulse reports the areas that will be most impacted by Florence.

“The uniqueness of the storm was made apparent over the weekend as it moved in a due-westerly track. Rarely do storms move in that configuration in this location,” Riskpulse’s Chief Meteorologist, Jon Davis, and its Senior Weather Analyst Mark Russo explained in a webinar on Monday morning.

As of now, Florence is a little over halfway across the Atlantic. “This storm will almost assuredly make an East Coast landfall, which is extremely rare for a system that has come off of Africa and is this far north. The ridging environment of the northern US and southern Canada, as well as the clockwise circulation that surrounds the area, really prevents this system from moving northward, which is the more traditional track that these storms take,” said Davis and Russo. 

“The storm is not yet being influenced by warmer waters on the East Coast of the US. That will begin to happen today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.  It’s one of the reasons we fully expect the storm to strengthen into a Category 3, 4, or 5 storm in the next few days as it moves towards the US.”

“We anticipate Florence to make landfall as a major hurricane. North Carolina is the most likely location for landfall, that will likely be on Thursday night, in the Wilmington, NC area. The vast majority of computer guidance continues to narrow in on the Carolinas for impact. Once inland, we believe the system will stall out,” Davis and Russo stated. 

RiskPulse expects wind gusts up to 115 miles per hour.

According to Davis and Russo, “Some of the most severe storm surge conditions will be in the Carolinas, reaching into Virginia Beach and Norfolk. The other impact of Florence is going to be rainfall and the increasing risk of major, even catastrophic flooding.”

Because of the large size of the storm, and its projected strength, Florence is posed to cause a severe flooding event. Power outages are expected to extend through the Carolinas and into southern Virginia, as well.

“This has already begun to impact freight rates, transportation, and logistics. In relation to transportation, I-95 corridor from around Richmond down to Savannah, are in the highest impact zone. Some of the main markets here include the Raleigh and Durham area, as well as Charlotte. These are expected to be affected by not only the strong winds, but the rain events. We feel these areas will have a more severe impact,” Davis and Russo explained.   

Based on the large diameter of the storm, road closures will depend on wind and flooding. In eastern areas of our high impact zone, road closures will likely begin late Thursday as the storm makes landfall. “You could have road closures for a week, if not more, in those areas.”

“Due to topography alone, 20+ inches of rain in this region could certainly be catastrophic,” Riskpulse concluded. 

--Maria Baker

11 AM EDT: The National Hurricane Center issued an updated forecast for Hurricane Florence.

  • As of 11 a.m. Eastern time, the eye of Hurricane Florence was located near latitude 25.0 North and longitude 60.0 West, moving west at 13 mph. It is expected to move west-northwestward at higher speeds over the coming days.

  • A turn toward the northwest is anticipated late Wednesday, with the hurricane expected to make approach the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina Thursday.

  • Maximum sustained winds have increased to 115 mph with higher gusts, and Florence is now a category 3 hurricane and expected to worsen.

  • Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 30 miles from the center of the storm, with tropical-storm-force winds as far as 140 miles out. --Ashley Coker

9:55 AM EDT: Here are highlights from the latest National Hurricane Center forecast for Hurricane Florence, issued earlier this morning.

  • At approximately 6 a.m. Eastern time, Florence was at latitude 24.9 North and 58.9 West, moving to the west northwest at near 9 mph. It is expected to increase in speed over the next few days.

  • Its forecast takes it between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday. "A turn toward the northwest is forecast to occur Wednesday night or Thursday," the NHS said. Florence should approach the U.S. southeastern coast on Thursday.

  • Satellite imagery indicates the winds are up to 105 mph with higher gusts. "Rapid strengthening is forecast, and Florence is forecast to become a major hurricane (Monday) morning, and is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday," the NHS said.

  • Hurricane-force winds have been recorded 25 miles out from the center of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds are 125 miles out from the center.--John Kingston

8:45 AM EDT: On the heels of a similar step taken by his counterpart in North Carolina, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has signed an executive order suspending most federal trucking regulations on a variety of vehicles for as much as 30 days as Hurricane Florence approaches the state.

The order signed Sunday follows a step taken a few days earlier by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper which also suspended a slew of rules on trucking, including weight loads on trucks carrying crops. (A similar crop waiver was ordered last week in Illinois, though it is not related to the storm).

According to the executive order signed by McMaster, the governor of a state has the right to "suspend certain requirements relating to...weight, load and hours of service for commercial vehicles responding to an emergency if the Governor declares a state of emergency."

The McMaster order also indicates he had no choice. It says that once North Carolina passed such an emergency order, "an emergency must be declared in this State."

The order to suspend rules on everything from registration to length, width, weight, load and HOS are applicable to several categories of trucks:
--Those transporting "essential" fuels, food, water, medicine and medical supplies
--Those transporting livestock and crops
--Those transporting equipment needed to restore utility service and clear debris.

The rule will run for 30 days or when the state of emergency ends, whichever is less.--John Kingston