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Florence will pose fatal threat for days

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A police vehicle patrols the beach after an evening curfew went into effect as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Hurricane Florence's winds may have weakened, but this is still no "minor" storm. Water is a hurricane's deadliest threat, and forecasters say Florence packs a catastrophic amount of it. Officials have been begging hold-outs in evacuation zones to seek shelter, including a police chief on a barrier island in Florence's bull's-eye who asked for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused warnings to leave.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • Big storm: about 400 miles (645 kilometers) wide, with hurricane-force winds stretching across a 160-mile (255-kilometer) span.
  • Heavy rains: parts of the Carolinas could see 20 inches to 30 inches (50 to 76 centimeters), with isolated areas getting 40 inches (100 centimeters), over seven days along the coast
  • Storm surge: up to 13 feet (nearly 4 meters), and seawaters could push inland 2 miles (more than 3 kilometers), depending on how long Florence lingers
  • Fatal hazards: historically, 49 percent of U.S. hurricane deaths come from storm surge, 27 percent from rain, 8 percent from wind, 6 percent from surf, 6 percent were offshore and 3 percent from tornadoes.
  • Intensity: maximum sustained winds at 100 mph (160 kph), below the 111 mph (178 kph) threshold for a "major" hurricane but still extremely dangerous
  • Going dark: 12,000 outages in North Carolina as of Thursday afternoon, and Duke Energy anticipates 1 million to 3 million homes and businesses losing power
  • Populated coastline: 11 million Americans live in areas under storm watches and warnings
  • Grounded: nearly 1,200 flights canceled
  • Potential losses: private meteorologists estimate $10 billion to $60 billion in economic damages

TO THE RESCUE

Fast response crews from California, Florida and New England have converged on the Carolinas to be ready to move into damaged areas once it's safe to do so. Inflatable Zodiac boats, all-terrain vehicles and mini-bikes are among the equipment some teams such as the Oregon Air National Guard's 125th Special Tactics Squadron brought in. The Virginia National Guard has 1,200 personnel ready to respond for missions including high water transportation, debris reduction, commodity distribution, shelter management assistance and search and rescue.

AT THE ZOO

About 1,600 animals at the North Carolina Zoo are hunkered down. Zoo workers moved elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees and hundreds of other species indoors for safety. But spokeswoman Diane Villa says some animals, including bison and elk, will stay in fenced-in yards instead of barns because they don't like being in fully enclosed spaces. A crew of zookeepers, veterinarians and park rangers will ride out the storm with the animals.

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