(AP) – As Hurricane Florence churns toward the East Coast with catastrophic power, it’s targeting a particularly vulnerable North Carolina coast where vast amounts of new development now stand on the shifting sands of barrier islands amid the rising waters of climate change.

Experts said Tuesday that the combination of unwise development and climate change could make the storm North Carolina’s most destructive on record.

The state’s low-lying Outer Banks and other barrier islands are particularly vulnerable to being washed over from both sides by storm surges, and climate change is worsening the situation. Warmer waters increase the size and intensity of hurricanes. As sea levels rise, shorelines become more vulnerable.

And while barriers islands typically shift slowly toward the mainland, development is artificially holding them in place, making them more vulnerable.

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