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The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says it expects the storm to make landfall in North Carolina or SC late Thursday into Friday as "an extremely unsafe major hurricane". And if it does make landfall as a Cat 4 intensity storm, with winds topping 131 miles per hour, it will become only the fourth storm to do so north from South Carolina's latitude since records of USA hurricane landfalls began in 1851.

The governor of neighbouring North Carolina also ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination, and parts of coastal Dare County, while a state of emergency was declared in Virginia.

The Post's weather team noted that Florence will pass over oceans that are warmer than normal, which will provide fuel and "favours at least a Category 3 hurricane landfall on the Southeast coast by week's end" (emphasis theirs).

Hurricane Florence has the potential to bring catastrophic flooding to areas of the eastern United States already soaked by heavy rain.

This image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence, third from right, on Tuesday as it threatens the U.S. East Coast.

Although the focus on where Hurricane Florence makes landfall is drawing lots of attention, another looming threat could be the worst impact of this monster storm: disastrous, deadly flooding from days of relentless rain. He said it is expected to produce two to three feet of rain, mostly centred on North Carolina, Virginia, and the northern sections of SC.

"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm anxious about the rain and tornadoes too", Roberts said.

A wider area will be impacted as Florence moves inland.

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A big worry with Florence is that the system could linger for days, similar to the manner in whch Harvey hovered over Texas a year ago.

Forecasters say Olivia - with current wind speeds of 65 miles per hour - will make landfall on Wednesday morning.

When asked in a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff P.J. Tanner said the school district must first evaluate how many teachers and staff evacuated ahead of the order.

At the same time Florence is expected to make its landfall, another storm, Isaac, is forecast to be at or near hurricane strength as it moves across the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea. A large swath of Virginia could also see between 10 and 15 inches of rain. "Hurricane-force winds, storm surge inundation, again, are all possible in the watch area".

While there remains some uncertainty around Hurricane Florence's exact path, one thing does seem certain: it will dump potentially historic rainfall amounts.

Hurricane Harvey killed 68 people and caused catastrophic flooding in Houston, while Hurricane Irma caused 129 storm-related deaths in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.

The latest National Weather Service (NWS) update on Tuesday morning says Florence is expected to "continue a slow strengthening trend for the next day or so".