Missouri Task Force 1 is now in North Carolina, as Hurricane Florence hits land Thursday.
The Boone County-based emergency responders have been assigned to Brunswick County, which is on the ocean and south of Wilmington.
Fifty local members are staging in Leland, North Carolina on Thursday. Most of the crew specializes in water rescues.
More about Hurricane Florence from The Associated Press:
Time is running short to flee Hurricane Florence, a monster of a storm zeroing in on the Southeastern coast with more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights.
Florence’s top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140 mph (225 kph) to 110 mph (175 kph) as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early Thursday, reducing the storm from Category 4 to Category 2, but forecasters warned that the enormous wind field has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land.
“Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?” said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As of 5 a.m. EDT it was centered about 205 miles (325 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 250 miles (450 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).
The National Hurricane Center’s best guess was that Florence’s eye would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Then, it will likely hover along the coast Saturday, pushing up to 13 feet (nearly 4 meters) of storm surge and dumping 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimeters) of rain on both states, before slogging over the Appalachian Mountains.
The result: catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, farm fields and industrial sites.
About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million more live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 mph (160 kph), but that’s still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and the rain and storm surge will make Florence extremely dangerous.
President Donald Trump both touted the government’s readiness and urged people to get out of the way. “Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one,” he said at the White House.