By Carlo Versano
Hurricane Florence took a southwesterly turn on Wednesday, placing a wider portion of the U.S. under threat of dangerous winds, storm surge, and inland flooding.
"This could be the Harvey of the East Coast," USA Today weather reporter Doyle Rice said Wednesday in an interview on Cheddar.
Last year, Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic rainfall in the Houston area, becoming one of the costliest storms in U.S. history. With an estimated price tag of $125 billion, Harvey is second in the rankings only to 2005's Katrina, which reportedly cost $161 billion.
By some forecasts, Florence could cause damage of as much as $170 billion.
In its new track, the storm will effectively scrape a larger area of coastline and then "sit there," much like Harvey did in Houston, dumping rain for days, Rice said.
It's a strange way for a hurricane to make landfall, he added ー though everything about Florence's formation and path has been odd.
"This is the only one in recorded history that has made a beeline for the South Carolina coast from where it was" in the Atlantic Ocean, he said.
Storms usually make a northern turn as they approach the shallower waters of the coast. Florence is deviating from the standard path, at least for now.
It puts a gigantic region at a serious risk of flooding, Rice said.
From Charleston, S.C., to Atlanta, "all the big cities of the interior southeast" should be prepared for massive precipitation, he said. The latest NWS bulletin warns of "catastrophic flash flooding" in the Carolinas, which may persist until early next week.
With the storm expected to make landfall late Thursday, airlines have already begun cancelling flights. According to FlightAware, nearly 600 have been cancelled ahead of the storm, and that number will only rise.
For travelers with plans in the impacted areas, airlines will be offering waivers, said Condé Nast Traveler's Mark Ellwood, who offered tips to Cheddar Tuesday. He said CFAR (cancel for any reason) insurance is a good option for those travelling during hurricane season, which runs through November.
It can't be said enough, though: before doing anything else, check with the airline if there's an active hurricane nearby.
"Don't assume that your plans won't be impacted even if you're not flying into the hurricane zone," Ellwood said.
For the full interview click here.