A steady stream of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland Tuesday, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone to flee. "However, if the storm does stall, it could drop 10-20" of rain, leading to flooding well inland.
Here's what to expect from Florence and when to expect it, based on the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center and other sources.
Arrival: Florence's landfall is expected late Thursday night or Friday morning.
"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd and Matthew", it said. The report also said that some facilities for inmates in Virginia are also planning evacuations, according to the state's Departments of Corrections.
American and Southwest Airlines were among the carriers cancelling flights to and from the hurricane zone starting Wednesday.
As of early Wednesday morning, Hurricane Florence had weakened slightly with sustained winds of 130mph, but this is of little effect as the track forecast now shows a unsafe stalling out near the coast, or just onshore by late Thursday or Friday morning. A storm surge warning was called for the coast between Edisto Beach, S.C., and the South Santee River, and the coast north of Duck, N.C., to North Carolina's northern border. Hurricane-strength winds have been expanding to a range of 40 miles from the eye of the storm.Information gathered on Tuesday by a hurricane-hunting aircraft suggests it will intensify again as it nears the coast, approaching the 157mph threshold for a worst-case category 5 scenario. That prediction shows Florence stalling out and looping over or near the North Carolina coastline, which would bring tremendous amounts of rain and potential flooding.
In addition to flooding the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 13 feet (4 m), Florence could dump 15 to 25 inches (38 to 64 cm) of rain, with up to 35 inches (89 cm) in some spots, forecasters said.
Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and SC and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall by early Friday, bringing a storm surge as much as four metres, the National Hurricane Center in Miami has warned.
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On Monday, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for residents living along the entire 187-mile long SC coast.
The storm is moving to west northwest at 15 miles per hour.
On the five-level Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale Florence is a Category 4, meaning it is capable of causing "catastrophic damage".
But, she added, she's not sure whether going inland would be much safer: "I don't know where to go from here". Tropical storm-force winds would extend almost 300 miles across three states.
The storm may weaken slightly before making landfall, but it could still hit land as a Category 4 or strong Category 3 storm.
Two other storms were spinning in the Atlantic as the 2018 hurricane season reaches its peak. Winds this strong could knock some trees over and potentially knock out power.
Florence's projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons. Allison Jones said she's not taking any chances.
All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast.