Editor’s note: This story will be updated as new details are available.
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Click here to find online resources to stay safe during Hurricane Florence, including temporary shelter locations, temporary housing, current traffic conditions and more.
Update, Sept. 14, 10:00 a.m. CST
Hurricane Florence, which downgraded to a Category 1 storm overnight, made landfall this morning at 7:15 a.m. just east of Wilmington, North Carolina at Wrightsville Beach.
The storm slowed down significantly as it reached land and is expected to drench large portions of the North Carolina and South Carolina coast through most of Friday.
While the wind speeds have dropped to more than 80 mph, the storm’s slow pace has experts worried as it could drop more than 3 inches of rain an hour over a 24-36 hour period.
The North Carolina city of New Bern has been hit the hardest, according to multiple recent reports. More than 100 people were rescued from severe flooding in the area last night, officials said.
Officials have deployed state troopers, Swift Water Rescue personnel, and 2,800 North Carolina National Guard soldiers to respond to emergencies, according to the state’s Department of Public Safety.
In other areas, residents, disaster relief workers and evacuees have taken to social media to share photos of the effects of the flooding and storm surges.
This is Morty from the @ReliefNational. He was deployed in Puerto Rico when the Hurricane Maria hit there, and jumped 30 foot out of a helicopter when he caught the scent of someone in need. He’s now in NC for #HurricaneFlorence. @WNCN pic.twitter.com/sRMmWdBVHq
— Holden Kurwicki (@HoldenCBS17) September 14, 2018
— Ricky Arnold (@astro_ricky) September 14, 2018
Currently ~150 awaiting rescue in New Bern. We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue. More are on the way to help us. WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. #FlorenceNC
— City of New Bern (@CityofNewBern) September 14, 2018
As part of a public health emergency declaration made Tuesday, Health and Human Services has sent about 230 medical personnel and caches of medical equipment from the National Disaster Medical System to respond to medical needs in affected communities.
Upstate South Carolina hospitals have already taken on the wave of new evacuee patients from the coast. More than 2,400 residents from 114 healthcare facilities have safely evacuated to inland medical facilities, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Here’s the status of hospital closures in the state, according to the department:
- Grand Strand Medical Center
- Palmetto Behavioral Hospital
- Tidelands Georgetown Memorial
- Tidelands Rehab Hospital
- Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital
- Vibra Hospital of Charleston
- Williamsburg Hospital
The following 8 hospitals were granted exemptions to the MME order, allowing them to continue to treat their most acutely ill patients:
- Bon Secours – St. Francis Xavier (Roper)
- East Cooper Medical Center
- Health South Rehab Hospital of Charleston (Encompass)
- Roper St. Francis – Mount Pleasant Hospital
- Roper Hospital
- Summerville Medical Center
- Trident Medical Center
Both the North Carolina and South Carolina nursing boards are also closed because of the hurricane. Travel nurses who already have a license in those states—or who use a compact license—will still have access to their information via online portals, but new licenses applications might not be processed at this time.
Update, Sept. 13, 9:01 a.m. CST
As of 8 a.m. EST, Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm in terms of wind speed, but officials are still advising residents to prepare for life-threatening storm surges and significant flooding as it reaches the coast Thursday evening.
The North Carolina and the northern half of the South Carolina coasts are under Storm Surge Warning and could experience hurricane-force winds up to 110 mph.
“Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern and central Appalachians late this week into early next week, as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland,” the National Hurricane Center said in Thursday’s morning advisory.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents along the coast to evacuate as soon as possible and said emergency staff are working to move people from evacuation zones to temporary shelters across the state.
“We want to continue to send the message that this monster of a storm is not one to ride out,” Cooper said. “When you’re looking at a storm surge of this magnitude, where the National Weather Service has said that the damage is going to be unbelievable and that they cannot emphasize it enough, we know that’s a message we should listen to.”
Governor Cooper in Kinston today: “We want to continue to send the message that this monster of a storm is not one to ride out.” pic.twitter.com/osAmqC0lIC
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) September 12, 2018
Update, Sept. 12 11:20 a.m. CST
New forecast models released by the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center predict a new path for Hurricane Florence that could take the storm further south.
The hurricane is still expected to reach the North Carolina coast by Friday but is now expected to stall on the coast, turn slightly south and potentially reach land as late as Saturday evening.
Meteorologists predict southern regions of South Carolina and at least half of Georgia are expected to receive more of the storm impact. With the new path, Myrtle Beach is now under “extreme” wind threat status and high risk of flash flooding, along with Southport, Shallotte and many other cities along the coast.
Hurricane Florence is still classified as a Category 4 storm with hurricane-force winds of 130 mph, and is expected to be one of the largest storms to ever hit the Carolina coastline, according to CNN.
Original article, posted Sept 12, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. CST
Healthcare travelers, hospitals and residents are bracing for the impact of Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall by Friday morning, according to National Weather Service projections.
“As of the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center at 2 p.m. [Tuesday], we’re looking at…a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Bright said during a live Periscope broadcast on Twitter.
Hurricane Florence update. https://t.co/G78Ky92ZwE
— NWS Charleston, SC (@NWSCharlestonSC) September 11, 2018
Hurricane Florence on Tuesday was roughly 900 miles away from the southeast coast of the U.S., which could provide some wiggle room for the exact trajectory, Bright said.
Current forecasts by the National Weather Service predict tropical-storm-force winds will hit the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts by Thursday morning, followed by potential hurricane-force-winds Thursday evening and Friday morning.
Powerful storm surges, flash flooding and up to two days of concentrated heavy rainfall in both states as well as Virginia are among the threats to local residents, according to early predictions.
From the coast, flooding rains are expected to extend next week into sections of Georgia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Governors for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have issued mandatory evacuation orders for residents in potentially affected areas along the coast and inland areas.
Hundreds of thousands of state residents are expected to follow evacuation routes over the next three days. Officials have already reversed eastbound traffic on major evacuation corridors to ease roadway congestion.
“The forecast places North Carolina in the bull’s eye of Hurricane Florence, and the storm is rapidly getting stronger,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press release. “When weather forecasters tell us “life-threatening,” we know it’s serious. We are bracing for a hard hit.”
All three states have also sought federal disaster declarations ahead of the storm to funnel emergency resources towards disaster relief efforts.
“Hurricane Florence has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding, especially in our coastal areas,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a press release. “This evacuation is for the safety of thousands of Virginians living in that zone. But the effects of this storm will be felt statewide, and I encourage everyone in Virginia to prepare now.”
Some hospitals evacuating north; Travel nurses prepare for the worst
Along with residents, reports of hospital evacuations came in Tuesday morning following the issuance of mandatory evacuation orders Monday night.
At least two hospitals in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—Tidelands Health and Grand Strand Medical Center—started evacuating patients and personnel on Tuesday. A handful of the 19 hospitals located in evacuation zones are seeking exemptions to avoid moving patients, according to a report from The Post and Courier.
Hospitals directly outside of evacuation zones and further inland are preparing to weather the potential storm of increased patient loads and emergency needs.
Additionally, many hospitals and healthcare systems have activated inclement weather and emergency procedures protocols, which often require travel nurses to stay nearby and remain on-call to respond to hospital needs.
Michelle McAfee, a senior talent advisor for LiquidAgents healthcare, said several of the nurses she works with currently in Roanoke, Virginia have been told to move their RVs further inland to avoid the worst of the storm.
“My nurses are not calling out—some are even volunteering to work extra if needed,” McAfee said. “Many…will be staying close to or at their hospital when it hits. Some are not overreacting because of the many false alarms over the past few years, others are hunkering down. Each individual is different, but many are rising to the occasion and working through the crisis.”
As of Tuesday evening, these health systems have sent out communications to travel agencies or staff about activation of emergency procedures, based on information gathered by Healthcare Traveler Today:
- Centra Health, based out of Lynchburg, Virginia, and with 64 facilities in the state, has implemented their emergency operations plan and established incident command for all locations.
- Riverside Regional Medical Center has asked staff to plan accordingly for the hurricane by monitoring weather conditions and arranging hospital accommodations ahead of time if staff need to stay on-site.
- VMS/MSP company Qualivis, which works with several hospitals and agencies that provide staffing in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, has sent out reminders to agencies that all agency-provided staffing in the region must comply with their hospital’s emergency and disaster procedures.
- Palmetto Health System, which has six facilities in South Carolina, has activated their inclement weather policy to handle the potential influx of new patients. All travel nurses and agency staff must remain in town, must be available to work, and are required to work any scheduled shifts.
- Greenville Health System, which has eight facilities in South Carolina, has activated their inclement weather policy to handle the potential influx of new patients. All travel nurses and agency staff must remain in town, must be available to work, and are required to work any scheduled shifts.
As a reminder, all healthcare travelers in the region should check with their managers for their hospital’s emergency procedures, as most will require temporary staff to stay on-site or be on-call to handle increased patient loads.
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