Astronauts send home views of ‘nightmare’ Hurricane Florence

A crew member on the International Space Station took this image of Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean on the morning of Sept. 12. At that time, the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Credit: NASA

Astronauts have captured views of Hurricane Florence raging in the Atlantic Ocean and heading toward a likely landfall in the Carolinas on the U.S. East Coast, with one flight engineer calling the storm a “no-kidding nightmare.”

The wide-angle views from the space station, orbiting around 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, show the hurricane churning on a track toward the west-northwest.

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst shared a series of images on Twitter, commenting on the sight of the hurricane and describing the view as “chilling.”

In a separate tweet, Gerst showed another expansive view of Hurricane Florence on Thursday, with the eye looming several hundred miles off shore as outer cloud bands approached the North Carolina coastline. He urged local residents to heed evacuation orders.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted this image of Hurricane Florence approaching the East Coast, with the coast of North Carolina visible at the bottom of the image. Credit: Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA

As of 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0000 GMT Thursday), the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Florence’s maximum sustained winds were 115 mph, a Category 3 storm. While peak winds inside the cyclone weakened slightly Wednesday, the storm grew in size, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the eye, and tropical storm-force winds out to a distance of up to 195 miles (315 kilometers) as of the 8 p.m. EDT update Wednesday.

At that time, Hurricane Florence was located about 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence’s position and forecast path as of 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0000 GMT Thursday). Credit: National Hurricane Center

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