Dozens of airmen are assembling at a New York Air National Guard base on Long Island to prepare for deployment to southern states in the path of Hurricane Florence.
Areas along the coast from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, NC, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay rivers may experience storm surges from 9 to 13 feet.
While the storm's maximum sustained winds edged lower on Wednesday, those of tropical-storm-force expanded outward, extending 195 miles and putting more people at risk when the storm finally comes ashore, expected near the border separating the Carolinas.
The storm looked likely to make landfall on the coast of North and SC but heavy rain was also expected in Virginia to the north and Georgia to the south.
Washington Post: "Category 4 Hurricane Florence drawing closer to Carolinas and threatens "catastrophic" flooding" - "Expanding in size, violent Hurricane Florence is continuing on a beeline toward the East Coast as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane".
Amanda Kinseth, reporter for WPDE ABC 15 News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
As of 11 p.m. EST, the storm was centered 280 miles east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was moving northwest at 17 mph.
If some of the computer projections hold, "it's going to come roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say, 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground forecasting service.
More than a million people are under mandatory evacuation orders, and coastal residents frantically boarded up homes and businesses and hit the road as the storm approached. The only exception was Edisto Beach - that and other areas to the north remain under evacuation orders. In North Carolina, Cooper says, "2,800 soldiers will be on active duty, joined by even more on standby".
After Florence makes landfall, that ridge, now over Washington and NY, will move east - but be replaced by another one forming over the Great Lakes that will likely keep the storm stuck, McNoldy said.
For anyone needing a place to stay to escape the hurricane, both North Carolina and SC are updating their lists of emergency shelters.
"The eye of Florence remains very distinct in infrared satellite imagery this morning". "Florence is expected to slow down considerably by late Thursday into Friday, and move slowly through early Saturday".
The slow movement, combined with the massive amount of moisture this storm holds, will bring unsafe rains - from 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina and 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says.
The shift in the projected track spread concern to areas that once thought they were relatively safe.
Speaking at a news conference, the official said the hurricane was expected to spread out into the Central Appalachian mountains, the Tennessee Valley, and southeastern parts of the United States after Saturday.
Authorities advised residents who have not evacuated to go to the highest point in their homes, call 911 for help, keep their cell batteries charged as best they can and wait for help to arrive.
The impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide. GEMA/HS continues to lead our preparedness efforts as we coordinate with federal, state and local officials to provide public shelter and accommodate those evacuating from other states.