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Category 4 Hurricane Florence Forecast to Hit East Coast
After starting off as a tropical storm, Florence has rapidly intensified and is expected to become a major hurricane that could make landfall in North and South Carolina later this week.
The storm is now a Category 4 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center's Atlantic branch tweeted in its latest update Monday.
"Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (195 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 946 mb (27.93 inches)," the agency wrote.
Meteorologist Eric Holthaus
tweeted Sunday that Florence "is going to be about the size of North Carolina when it arrives."
Holthaus added that if Florence arrives on the coast as a Category 4, it could "potentially become the strongest East Coast hurricane landfall in recorded history."
Category 4 winds range from 130-156 mph and can cause catastrophic damage to properties, humans and animals.
"Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months," the National Hurricane Center explains.
National Hurricane Center
Florence, which is about 580 miles southeast of Bermuda, is moving at a speed of 13 mph (20 km/h), with an increase in forward speed expected during the next couple of days, the hurricane center announced Monday. It is forecast to approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.
Swells generated by Florence are already affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast.
"These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions," the hurricane center said.
CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Monday that Florence could be the most powerful storm to strike the area in three decades, and bring water up to 15 feet high along the coast and dump up to 20 inches of rainfall in inland locations over the next four to five days.
The National Weather Service Eastern Region also predicts damaging impacts from heavy rainfall and flooding.
"In addition to potential life-threatening storm surge at the coast, indications are that Florence may slow down by the end of the week, resulting in prolonged heavy rainfall & dangerous freshwater flooding inland. Rainfall forecast is very preliminary, please continue to monitor," the agency tweeted Sunday.
The National Hurricane Center advised the region's residents to have a hurricane plan in place and to follow any advice given by local officials.
The governors of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have each declared states of emergency in anticipation of Florence.
"With this order government agencies will begin to mobilize in anticipation of a hurricane," South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted over the weekend. "Now is the time for your family also to prepare and stay tuned for more updates. Plan for the worst, pray for the best."
The National Hurricane Center is also monitoring hurricanes Helene and Isaac in the Atlantic, but they are not expected to hit the U.S. mainland.
Visit Ready.gov for hurricane preparedness tips.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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