National Guard braces as Hurricane Florence rapidly approaches Mid-Atlantic

Matt Saintsing
September 10, 2018 - 1:33 pm

USA Today Staff Photo by Megan Raymond

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Florence is now a powerful category 4 hurricane that continues to intensify as it rapidly approaches the U.S. Atlantic coast, where damage could strike anywhere from South Carolina to Virginia later this week. 

Multiple states in the mid-Atlantic region are expecting the dangerous storm and some have gone so far as to declare a state of emergency, which could mean mobilizing National Guard troops. Here is the latest information out from South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

South Carolina

"Assume that a major hurricane is going to hit smack dab in the middle of South Carolina, and is going to move inland," South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) said at a news conference Sunday. "We're going to have a lot of rain, and a lot of wind," he said. "We don't know how much, we can't predict yet."

McMaster submitted a request to President Donald Trump to issue a federal emergency declaration, which would open the flow of federal dollars to help cover the state’s disaster expenses.

Major Gen. Robert E Livingston, Jr., who heads the state’s Army and Air Force National Guard, said the following resources were on standby waiting on orders, should they be needed: 

  • 1085 total Guardsmen have been activated as of Monday morning
  • 2,702 total available troops

North Carolina

Governor Roy Cooper (D) said the state was in the “bullseye” of the hurricane and that it was rapidly gaining strength. The biggest threats to the Tar Heel State are ocean surge, stronger than normal hurricane winds, and inland flooding. 

About 200 National Guard troops have been activated and are spread out across North Carolina, along with state emergency management teams and other first responders. 

“One thing we know is that the people of North Carolina are resilient,” Cooper said Monday at a news conference. “We will get through this.” 

Virginia

Governor Ralph Northan (D) said: “While the impacts of Tropical Storm Florence to Virginia are still uncertain, forecasts increasingly expect the storm to strengthen into a major hurricane that could seriously affect the East Coast and Virginians.” 

“Accordingly, I am declaring a state of emergency so that we can begin to prepare state assets, and I encourage Virginians to monitor forecasts and make their own preparations now.”

The state of emergency allows state officials to mobilize resources, including National Guard assets, although there have yet to be activations. 

The U.S. Navy has ordered about 30 ships in Hampton Roads to prepare to leave port Monday. Officials said the ships will be best positioned at sea to avoid storm damage. 

“Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway,” said U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. Christopher Grady in a statement over the weekend. 

Not every ship is scheduled to sail as some are undergoing maintenance, but commanders have a few options to minimize damage, such as dropping anchors, disconnecting shore power cable, and adding storm lines. 

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