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Officials in the potential path of a still fierce Hurricane Florence had a stern, clear message for people still in coastal towns under evacuation orders.
“You put your life at risk by staying,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. “Don’t plan to leave once the winds and rains start.”
Cooper and his South Carolina counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been told to leave that if they don’t, they are on their own.
In Carolina Beach, authorities at 8 p.m. stopped allowing traffic to the island via the only bridge between the island and the mainland. They also instituted a 24-hour curfew. Officials worry that as many as 1,000 of the town’s 6,300 residents are staying in the town, which is less than 5 feet above sea level.
Town Manager Mike Cramer said law enforcement officers will try to assess how many people are still on the island immediately south of Wilmington.
Mayor Joe Benson said the storm will batter the oceanside town through two high tide periods. Storm surge of 13 feet on top of a high tide at 7 feet could overwhelm Carolina Beach.
“Our sand dunes are healthy but they’re not going to be able to keep back a wall of water like that,” he said. “Flooding is almost guaranteed.”
Florence is forecast to crawl up to the North Carolina coast late this week and turn slowly left – a development that would smash the Tar Heel State with life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and inundating rain while also endangering a large portion of South Carolina.