As of Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Florence was thought to have the potential to cause “massive damage to our country” according to Jeff Byard, associate administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The storm was labeled a Category 4 tropical storm with the potential to become a Category 5 as it nears the coast, with 130 mile-per-hour winds blowing about 900 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Meteorologists warned of hurricane-force winds in the region by mid-day Thursday, with storm surges reaching up to 12 feet or higher.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster remains the highest-profile nuclear catastrophe caused by a natural disaster. The tsunami that hit Japan in March of that year disabled three of the plant’s reactors, causing a radioactive release which forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

In 2014, Shane Shifflett and Kate Sheppard at the Huffington Post reported on the risk storms like Florence pose to nuclear plants:

During hurricanes, many nuclear facilities will power down—but this is not a sure-fire way to avoid disaster, wrote Sheppard and Shifflett.

“Even when a plant is not operating, the spent fuel stored on-site, typically uranium, will continue to emit heat and must be cooled using equipment that relies on the plant’s own power,” they wrote. “Flooding can cause a loss of power, and in serious conditions it can damage backup generators. Without a cooling system, reactors can overheat and damage the facility to the point of releasing radioactive material.”

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