Hurricane Florence has strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm as it closes in on North and SC, carrying wind and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States coast.
Packing winds of up to 220 km/h (140 mph) late Monday, Florence was expected to further strengthen and become "an extremely risky major hurricane" by the time in makes landfall in the Carolinas on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a 21:00 UTC update.
Governors in Virginia and both Carolinas declared a state of emergency over the weekend, and the National Hurricane Center said Monday that the storm's effects could reach as far as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Its centre will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Centre said. And Virginia's governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas, while some coastal counties in North Carolina have done the same.
In announcing his evacuation order, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said an estimated 1 million people would be fleeing the coast.
The National Weather Service in Newport has issued a Storm Surge Warning.
As Paul Flaherty flew over Hurricane Florence, he didn't like what he was seeing.
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 risky major hurricane through Thursday".
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough rain to cover the Tar Heel state in about 10 inches (25 centimeters) of water. Most hurricanes in the past moving into the Carolinas have moved north from Florida. Beyond the Carolinas and Virginia, the threat of flooding extends into next week to parts of Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, forecasters said. Sustained winds were 215kmh yesterday morning, but it remains a Category 4 storm and is expected to intensify to near Category 5 status as it slows over very warm coastal waters. "That's my one and only dealing with a hurricane". "Probably not too much better, but most likely safer than here", she said.
Helene, meanwhile, was still in the Atlantic's spawning ground for hurricanes off the coast of Africa, swirling with 105 mph (165 kmh) winds and forecast to become a major hurricane, about 375 miles (600 kilometers) west of the Cape Verde islands.
Preparations for Florence come as the Atlantic hurricane season hits its peak.
The state has issued mandatory evacuations.
"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
During his press conference Monday, McMaster appeared open to the possibility of modifying his evacuation plan.
"We got our football team to SC and the hurricane had just come through", Hamrick said.
Hurricane Isaac is moving toward the Caribbean and could make landfall Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane.