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The Latest: Florence barreling closer to coast of Carolinas
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) – Monster storm Hurricane Florence is barreling closer to the coast of the Carolinas.
Forecasters say wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 mph (225 kph) to 110 mph (175 kph), reducing it to a Category 2 storm. But authorities warn Florence has an enormous wind field as it zeroes in on the Southeast U.S. coast, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely dangerous.
Early Thursday Florence was about 235 miles (378 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 280 miles (450 kilometers) east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The storm is moving northwest at 17 mph (27 kph).
The National Hurricane Center’s says it expects Florence will blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then slog westward with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding.
Speedways, makeshift shelters offer rest to storm evacuees
HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) – Some of the Southerners escaping Hurricane Florence have found refuge in makeshift shelters, including campgrounds at three of the nation’s largest motor speedways.
But gas shortages and jammed freeways loomed for evacuees seeking safety from the storm.
In North Carolina, 1 in 10 gas stations in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham had no gas by midday Wednesday.
At Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, personal belongings were spread across an open field where the first few evacuees arrived Wednesday.
Melody Rawson left her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, arriving at the Georgia speedway with two dogs and a cockatoo, and a couple of coolers holding some sandwich meat.
Bristol Motor Speedway, near the Tennessee-Virginia line, and Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina also opened their campgrounds to evacuees.
Judges agree to delay enforcing congressional map decision
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – Federal judges have told North Carolina Republican legislators to quickly ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review their ruling that struck down the state’s congressional map because it was drawn with excessive partisanship in mind.
The three-judge panel agreed Wednesday to delay enforcement of its decision last week declaring congressional districts illegal partisan gerrymanders.
The judges already decided last week they wouldn’t require lines be redrawn to use in this fall’s election. But advocacy groups and Democratic voters who challenged the boundaries want assurances that new districts would be in place for 2020 elections.
So the judges set stipulations with the delay that require GOP lawmakers to request a Supreme Court appeal by Oct. 1. That means justices likely would rule fully by next summer if they accept the case.
MISSING MAN-BODY FOUND
Scavenged body of man found in national park; bear killed
(Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The National Park Service says the scavenged body of a missing man has been found at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that straddles Tennessee and North Carolina.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports rangers found 30-year-old William Lee Hill Jr., of Tennessee, on Wednesday. The park service says Hill and a friend were illegally hunting for ginseng in the park Friday. It says Hill and his friend were separated, and Hill wasn’t heard from again.
A bear with human DNA on it was also found in the area Wednesday and acted aggressive when rangers attempted to recover Hill’s body. The park service says the bear has been euthanized “out of concern for public safety.” It says Hill’s body showed signs of wildlife scavenging over several days. An investigation is ongoing.
SCHOOL BUS MANUFACTURER LAYOFFS
School bus manufacturer to cut 115 workers in North Carolina
HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) – A school bus manufacturer in North Carolina has announced that it will be laying off 115 workers at several factories in High Point.
News outlets report Thomas Built Buses announced Wednesday that the 115 workers will be laid off effective Sept. 28. A company statement says the cuts come as the organization adjusts to “the cyclical nature of our business” following six years of increased demand and staffing.
Thomas Built was founded in the area in 1916 as a street car manufacturer. It is the county’s largest manufacturing employer with about 1,800 employees as of late last year.
The Daimler Trucks North America subsidiary says in the statement that those who are being laid off can attend resume building workshops and a Daimler-hosted job fair.
Slaves’ descendants have long history of enduring hurricanes
ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. (AP) – A community of slave descendants on the South Carolina coast is used to riding out big storms – from one that killed an estimated 2,000 people in 1893 to Tropical Storm Irma last year.
Gullah residents of St. Helena Island near the South Carolina-Georgia line are keeping a close watch on Hurricane Florence, which is expected to hit the Carolinas this weekend.
Local barber Josh Dais says island residents trying to decide whether to flee often listen to elder relatives as much as professional meteorologists. He says: “If Mama won’t leave, most folks aren’t going to leave.”
The island’s Gullah community is home to about 5,000 people. Scholars say separation from the mainland caused the Gullah to retain much of their African heritage.