NOAA division director warns of 'serious situation' ahead of Hurricane Florence

The director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday issued a stark warning as Hurricane Florence takes aim at the southeast.  

“We expect it to approach the coast early Friday morning, begin to have hurricane force winds, storm surge, and catastrophic inland flooding,” William Lapenta told Hill.TV's Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“It's a very serious situation."

The Category 4 storm will likely be the most intense hurricane to hit the Carolina coast since Category 3 Hurricane Hugo struck the region over 25 years ago.

“That was a smaller hurricane. It was moving faster, which means that the impacts of the hazards are going to be occurring over a shorter time,” Lapenta said. “That's what really concerns us about Florence is that, as it gets near the coast, it begins to stall and slow down, and then it becomes more unpredictable.” 

Over 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the storm due to the threat of severe winds and the storm surge. 

“The storm surge is like a wall of water ahead of the storm that just rises up at nine to thirteen feet, and it moves things like buildings. That's a very serious force to deal with,” Lapenta said. “People in the coastal zones need to heed the evacuation warnings and take preparations, and move away from the coast.”

States of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., ahead of the storm. 

— Julia Manchester