With Hurricane Florence set to deliver a devastating blow to the Carolinas beginning late Thursday morning through the weekend, residents there are bracing for the worst. But while many homeowners are boarding up windows and stocking up on food and water, thousands of workers across a number of industries are in overdrive, helping to serve, protect, save, restore and relieve the communities that will be affected by the storm.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 2 hurricane — one of the strongest storms on the Eastern Seaboard in decades — is expected to produce winds topping 80 mph, and "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall" could push water inland at heights of up to 20 feet along the coast, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Charleston, South Carolina. Rather than pushing up toward western Virginia, as initially thought, the storm's center is now predicted to pivot southward and move across the middle of South Carolina, making landfall on Saturday.
Because of Florence's predicted path — which is perpendicular to the coast rather than at an oblique angle — the strong winds from the east and southeast will cause extensive storm surge flooding. According to data analytics firm CoreLogic, more than 750,000 homes in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are at potential risk of storm surge damage. The firm estimates threats to real estate will total about $170 billion. That would make Florence the costliest storm ever to hit the United States in terms of property loss.
What's disturbing, however, is the fact that two-thirds of American homeowners have no idea what to do in the event of a disaster, according to a new survey by Belfor Property Restoration. What's more, only 7 percent of respondents listed hurricanes as their top concern when it comes to natural disasters; most cited tornadoes (25 percent) and fires (20 percent). And even though floods are the most common and costly natural disaster, only 8 percent of respondents listed flooding as a top concern.
"It was shocking to find the results of Belfor's disaster preparedness survey showed U.S. homeowners are lacking the resources and awareness to prepare their homes, businesses and families for devastating situations," said the company's CEO, Sheldon Yellen. He says that most often, residents fail to clear storm drains of debris; turn off electricity, gas and water before evacuating; gather important paperwork and documents and move them to higher ground; and secure outdoor furniture and other lawn items that could become flying objects in strong winds.
Fortunately, with about five hurricanes striking the United States coastline every three years, there are people ready to spring into action when storm surges, flooding and high winds threaten.