Public health emergency declared in the Carolinas ahead of Hurricane Florence

The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency in North Carolina and South Carolina ahead of the incoming Category 4 Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall later this week.

The storm is expected to dump between 20 inches and 40 inches of rain, producing catastrophic flooding and a life-threatening storm surge up to 13 feet, according to reports. Strong winds of 140 mph have been recorded in the storm, which is currently crawling across the Atlantic Ocean as of Wednesday morning.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared the state of emergency for both states on Sept. 11. Residents of the Carolinas can expect the storm to hit between Friday and Saturday, though rain could linger for days. Communities along the Carolina coast have been issued mandatory evacuations.

At least some hospitals expected to be impacted are evacuating and moving patients. Other South Carolina hospitals have closed new admissions, but will keep emergency departments open to the public until three hours before winds affect the area, with full closures scheduled for Wednesday evening, according to local reports.