Eyewall of Florence slams Carolinas as Cat-1 hurricane

The Atlantic seaboard got some good news as Hurricane Florence slowed to a Category-1 hurricane as it finally made landfall this morning. The bad news: the storm’s track has slowed down, too. That means the wind damage might get exceeded by the flood damage, but both threaten significant destruction:

Hurricane Florence is making landfall in North Carolina, creeping ashore at 6 mph – but bringing winds of 90 mph, a massive storm surge, and a rain system that will soak much of the state and South Carolina for days. Forecasters warn of “life –threatening, catastrophic flash flooding.”

Florence’s eyewall reached shore near Wilmington, N.C., just before 6 a.m. ET Friday morning; landfall was expected to follow near Wrightsville Beach soon afterward. At least 10 hours earlier, the storm began punishing the coastal area with sustained hurricane force winds, the National Hurricane Center said. …

Florence arrived at the Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm – its 90 mph sustained winds far below the fearsome 150 mph that it packed just days ago. But forecasters say Florence’s biggest threat, as with all hurricanes, lies in its water: a storm surge of up to 13 feet, and rainfall that will trigger catastrophic flooding.

“A USGS gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently recorded 6.1 feet above normal water levels,” the National Hurricane Center said, in its 7 a.m. ET update.

According to CNN, the damage was already well under way before the eyewall hit:

By Friday morning, Florence already had:
• Sapped power to nearly 437,000 customers in North and South Carolina, emergency officials said.
• Pushed in a storm surge of 10 feet above normal levels in Morehead City, North Carolina, the National Weather Service said.
• Forced more than 60 people to evacuate a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after part of the roof collapsed, city officials said.
• Canceled more than 1,300 flights along the East Coast through Friday.

For some reason, CNN assigned Derek Van Dam to stand on the shore as the eyewall hit. The power went out in Carolina Beach as Van Dam reported, but he gamely continued:

One has to wonder whether some editor at CNN wanted to get revenge on Van Dam for some real or imagined slight. He talks about the “adrenaline rush” from reporting from the front lines, and in the same breath talks about all the risks first responders have to take to rescue people who refused to evacuate. Maybe that’s a hint?

CNN’s not the only media outlet with reporters in the way of Florence, delivering scoops on what rain and wind look like. Here’s ABC’s Ginger Zee talking about debris flying past her face in Wilmington for almost a full minute before having the sense to come in out of the rain, as George Stephanopoulos says, “Take shelter, please!”

What value do these reports have, especially since the wind and rain renders half of them incomprehensible? Lash a remote camera to a pole and get shots of the whitecaps, but otherwise, move reporters to safer ground, or indoors.

There will be plenty of dramatic footage to get later. This is expected to last for days in the Carolinas before turning north into Ohio and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the people of that entire region will get hammered by Florence’s prodigious quantities of water. The storm will provide yet another test of FEMA’s abilities, for which its chief says they’re as ready as can be:

Everyone in the region needs to get to safe ground and shelter, even reporters. This is a heck of a lot more effective for getting the point across — and much safer.