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A satellite image of Hurricane Florence as a Category 1 storm on Sept. 9, 2018. Photo: NOAA via CIRA/RAMMB

Hurricane Florence has the potential to be a devastating storm for tens of millions along the East Coast later this week, when it is forecast to come close to or cross over the coastline of the Carolinas or mid-Atlantic region. It can possibly come to a complete stall as a major hurricane of Category 3 intensity or greater, which would be a potential nightmare scenario if it plays out.

The big picture: Computer model projections are unanimous in showing the storm will be unusually intense and slow-moving — two attributes that indicate its destructive potential. While Florence was a Category 1 storm Sunday afternoon, it's forecast to take advantage of warm sea surface temperatures, the absence of wind shear and other inhibiting factors to rapidly intensify to a Category 4 or possibly even Category 5 hurricane as it moves toward the East Coast.

The threat: Hurricane Florence appears likely to bring a combination of high-impact — and potentially deadly — threats to the U.S. by late in the week. While wind speeds get most of the attention, water kills the most people in hurricanes, both in the form of storm surge flooding at the coast and inland flooding from heavy rainfall.

  • On the inland flooding side, the scenario portrayed by many computer models best resembles an East Coast version of Hurricane Harvey, which dumped more than 60 inches of rain on Houston last year.
  • Yes, but: No two storms are ever exactly alike, and the threats posed by a landfalling, Category 4 or 5 storm that crosses the coast and comes to a dead stop, spinning over land for days while dumping several feet of rain far inland, cannot be overstated.

Driving the storm: Hurricane Florence will take an unusual path toward the U.S., with its escape route out to sea blocked by a building area of high pressure to its north. By the end of the week, that high pressure area, known as a "blocking high," is forecast to halt the storm's northward progress almost completely. The big question facing forecasters — and those in the storm's path — is where Hurricane Florence will be at that point.

The impact: This storm will bring a wide array of hazards to the East Coast, and residents of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic region, including the Washington, D.C., area, are being urged to prepare for a potentially life-threatening event featuring damaging winds that could last for a long duration along with coastal and inland flooding. Florence has the potential to be a large hurricane, with impacts felt hundreds of miles from the landfall location.

The bottom line: Hurricane Florence is the real deal of storm threats to the East Coast. Anyone with interests from Washington, D.C., south to Charleston, South Carolina, should be paying close attention to the latest guidance from emergency managers and relying most closely on the official forecasts from the National Hurricane Center.

Go deeper

Kaine, Collins' censure resolution seeks to bar Trump from holding office again

Sen. Tim Kaine (center) and Sen. Susan Collins (right). Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are forging ahead with a draft proposal to censure former President Trump, and are considering introducing the resolution on the Senate floor next week.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction, Axios Alayna Treene writes. "I think it’s important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives," Kaine told CNN on Wednesday.

Stark reminder for America's corporate leaders

Rosalind "Roz" Brewer is about to become only the second Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company. She starts as Walgreens CEO on March 15.

Why it matters: It's a stark reminder of how far corporate America's top decision-makers have to go during an unprecedented push by politicians, employees and even a stock exchange to diversify their top ranks.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Credit: Apple

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.