Millions prepare for potentially catastrophic Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence

The state is "taking Hurricane Florence seriously and you should too".

Hurricane Florence, now a Category 4 storm, is approaching the US East Coast with winds of more than 130 miles per hour.

More than a million people are expected to flee low-lying areas, as SC and Virginia ordered mandatory evacuations of coastal areas starting on Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center says the storm is gathering power as it moves towards land, and "is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane" by Thursday. And Virginia's governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas.

In announcing his evacuation order, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said an estimated 1 million people would be fleeing the coast.

Even if Florence hits as "only" a Category 3 hurricane, it will still cause "devastating damage".

The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said on Monday night: "Some strengthening is expected during the next 36 hours, and Florence is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday".

Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20 inches of rain, if not more, with as much as 10 inches elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Officials at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport are monitoring conditions and advise travelers to check with the airlines before heading to North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia, Jones said.

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"(R) esidents and guests of Beaufort County will be allowed to travel within county borders, until there is a need for lane reversals on USA 278 and US 21", a Monday evening message from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said, urging residents to leave by Tuesday.

Sustained winds Monday afternoon were up to 140 miles per hour. Many more were left to wonder where they might be safe if days of torrential rains unleash floods from the mountains to the sea.

The office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam predicted "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages".

Residents of the Isle of Palms, S.C., fill sand bags at the Isle of Palms municipal lot where the city was giving away free sand in preparation for Hurricane Florence at the Isle of Palms, South Carolina, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.

"We want to make sure that we get the best data going to the National Hurricane Center. and to emergency managers and to the media so we can get people out of the way", Flaherty said.

Florence was about 575 miles south-southeast of Bermuda as of noon ET Monday, or about 1,230 miles from Cape Fear, North Carolina.

The element will lead to a "life-threatening storm surges, exceptionally strong heavy rains and destructive winds", they say.

"We got our football team to SC and the hurricane had just come through", Hamrick said. Two other storms also are churning in the Atlantic.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1, but cooler water and higher wind shear - winds moving at different speeds and directions - early in the season are less than ideal for tropical systems to gain and maintain strength.

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