Hurricane Florence is closing in on the Carolinas Thursday morning as more than 10 million people brace for the worst.
On one level, prayers have been answered as the storm’s wind speeds have decreased from catastrophic Category 4 winds of 140 mph down to Category 2 winds of 110 mph. But it’s still very dangerous.
WeatherBELL’s Joe Bastardi tells CBN News the storm’s wind field has expanded, meaning a 200-mile stretch of the coast will experience hurricane-force winds.
“There’s no backing down on the magnitude of this storm in relation to where it’s going to hit,” Bastardi said.
And there’s still the problem of deadly storm surge.
“A life-threatening storm surge is now highly likely along portions of the coastlines of South Carolina and North Carolina,” the National Hurricane Center explains. “Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern and central Appalachians.”
Space Station images show the hurricane’s massive scope: 80 miles across and packing 110 miles per hour winds. And experts say, don’t let the downgrade to a Category 2 fool you.
The massive system could unleash a 13-foot wall of water in some areas – with a one-two punch of up to 40 inches of rain.
“It’s a big powerful Atlantic hurricane coming right into North Carolina initially and then we have to see whether it wants to turn back to the southwest and hug the coast all the way down to Charleston before finally making its way inland,” Bastardi said.
At Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade is moving out as the military base becomes a staging site for FEMA.
And in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, hospitals are racing to evacuate patients. “We’re trying to get everybody out and as such we’re shutting the hospital down,” said Dr. John Pangia of Grand Strand Health.
President Trump issued this warning: “Get out of its way. Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one.”
And at a Christian school in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, students worship as the storm nears, singing, “Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm,” as everyone prays for another downgrade of the storm’s power. ABC’s WTVD captured this video:
Along the North and South Carolina coasts, many have evacuated from their homes, but some are scrambling to finish last-minute preparations as time is running out to evacuate safely. Emotions are running high.
“Afraid for the surge. This is a beautiful beach here I can’t imagine how it’s going to be when we come back,” homeowner Sheryl Andrews said. “It’s in God’s hands. We don’t know why things happen, but He’s in control.”
At Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina where landfall is expected, the wind has picked up and so have the waves. Still, some are opting to stay.
“We are all boarded up,” said homeowner Paul Johnson. “The plywood on the house, water for at least a week. We are going to ride it out, fingers crossed.”
Meanwhile, churches and faith-based organizations are gathering supplies to help care for those who will be displaced after the massive storm leaves its mark.
“We have volunteers on standby – some to feed people, others with chainsaws, etc.,” explained Chad Austin, with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Others turned to social media and held live prayer sessions asking God to cause Hurricane Florence to lose strength. Pastor Mike Pitman of Vertical Church says more than 1,600 people joined in with his online prayer event.