Fuel Running Out, Flights Cancelled, And Mass Evacuations

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (Air1News - Alex Gregory) — The latest forecast models for Hurricane Florence show a shift in the danger toward more of South Carolina and parts of Georgia. Those who had thought they would be spared the monstrous storm's wrath suddenly found themselves preparing for the incoming onslaught. 

In response, Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal issued an emergency declaration for all of Georgia's 159 counties. The governor also relaxed restrictions on trucks hauling fuel and relief supplies and encouraged prayer ahead of the storm. North and South Carolina as well as Virginia have all declared states of emergency due to the storm, and President Trump followed up with his own emergency declaration which will open up federal aid. 

AP/Susan Walsh

In South Carolina, Beaufort County Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case. "We've had our lessons. Now it might be time for the exam," Baxley said late in the morning.

As motorists try to get away from the path of Hurricane Florence they are learning that some service stations are running out of gasoline. Patrick DeHaan is an analyst for GasBuddy, a service that tracks gasoline prices and outages. DeHaan says there is plenty of gasoline in the region, but getting it from distribution terminals to stations is a challenge. He says the situation is exacerbated because "everyone wants it at the same time."

AP/Chuck Burton

By midday Wednesday, 5 percent of stations in North Carolina were out, including 10 percent of those in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham. In South Carolina, 2 percent of stations had run out and in Virginia, 1 percent. DeHaan says truck stops and major chains with bigger supply systems are more likely to have gas than small stations.

Some airports in the Carolinas are shutting down as Hurricane Florence approaches, and American Airlines says it's canceling 565 flights through the weekend.

American said Wednesday that it has stopped flying at Greenville, Jacksonville and New Bern, North Carolina, and would shut down Wednesday night in Wilmington and Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Florence, South Carolina.

AP/Kiichiro Sato

American plans to stop flights in Columbia, South Carolina, and Hampton-Newport News, Virginia, on Thursday evening. Most of the closures will run through Sunday, with a few lifting after Saturday. American says it's seeing no impact at its big hub in Charlotte, North Carolina, and expects only scattered cancellations through Saturday at Raleigh-Durham.

National Hurricane Center storm watchers predict Hurricane Florence stalling off the southern coastline of North Carolina starting tomorrow night then finally lurching ashore. If that happens a much larger area of the coast will endure punishment for a lengthier timeframe than previously predicted. 

The trend is "exceptionally bad news," said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge."

Mississippi is sending National Guard members and search-and-rescue workers to areas affected by Hurricane Florence. Two swift-water rescue teams including local firefighters from 22 communities have gone to Virginia to help with rescue operations in case of flooding.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Greg Michel says Virginia is paying for the deployments under an interstate emergency-assistance compact. The Mississippi Office for Homeland Security says teams arrived Wednesday in the Virginia towns of Dublin and Pulaski.

Soldiers based in Meridian, Mississippi, will provide airlift support for relief after the storm using two CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Members of the Mississippi Air National Guard are deploying to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to help with relief planning and coordination.

A program that provides health care benefits to military families and retirees is making it easier to get care during evacuations related to Hurricane Florence.

The Defense Health Agency announced in a new release on Wednesday that it is waiving referral requirements for TRICARE beneficiaries under mandatory evacuation orders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

TRICARE says this means beneficiaries from 40 counties in those states may see a provider in any location without a referral from their primary care provider. The waiver is in effect until Sept. 21. TRICARE says it has about 1.5 million beneficiaries in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Air1 News 2018 - All Rights Reserved (The Associated Press Contributed to this report)