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If Hurricane Florence hits as a Category 4 storm, the toll could be devastating. Here’s what could happen.

U.S. Airmen from the South Carolina Air National Guard and 169th Fighter Wing, prepare to deploy from McEntire Joint National Guard Base to Bluffton, South Carolina, to support partnered civilian agencies and safeguard the citizens of the state in advance of Hurricane Florence, September 10, 2018. (Master Sgt. Caycee Watson/U.S. Air National Guard)

If Hurricane Florence lands as a powerhouse Category 4 storm along the East Coast later this week, the damage could be extensive – and long-lasting.

The storm, which intensified dramatically from a Category 1 to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday, could roar ashore with winds of up to 150 mph, according to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

A Category 4 hurricane has winds of 130 to 156 mph on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity.

A Category 4 hurricane can cause catastrophic damage, the hurricane center warned: “Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls,” the hurricane center said. “Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed.”

In addition, “fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Even if Florence hits as “only” a Category 3 hurricane, it will still cause “devastating damage.” Well-built framed homes may incur major damage, and many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads, the hurricane center said. “Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.”

The most recent Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Maria last year, which plowed into eastern Puerto Rico with winds of 155 mph. That storm killed as many as 3,000 people and left the entire island without power for weeks and in some locations months.

As for a hit on the U.S. mainland, the most recent Cat 4 at landfall was Hurricane Harvey last year, which hit Texas with winds of 130 mph. While the damage at landfall was catastrophic, most of the deaths and damage from Harvey were from the tremendous, record-shattering rain that fell across the Houston metro area, which caused disastrous flooding.

Other hurricanes that have smashed into the Carolinas include Hugo in 1989, Fran in 1996 and Isabel in 2003, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue. Hugo was among the most intense, which made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 4 with 140-mph winds.

Hugo killed 27 people in South Carolina and caused more than $9 billion in damage, which was the costliest hurricane on record at the time.

Since 1851, only one hurricane has brought sustained Category-4 winds to North Carolina: Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach said.

The only Category 5 hurricanes to hit the U.S. were Andrew in 1992, Camille in 1969 and an unnamed “Labor Day” hurricane in 1935.


© 2018 USA Today

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