Hurricane Florence to hit USA coast, hundreds of thousands evacuated from homes

The storm strengthened from 130 mph to 140 mph and is Category 4 the NHC said

People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.

Forecasters say Florence, the first major hurricane to take direct aim at the US mainland this year, could batter coastal areas with whipping winds, torrential rain and storm surges as high as 9 feet.

Florence was located about 325 miles (520 km) east-southeast of Myrtle beach, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour (175 km per hour), the Miami, Florida-based weather forecaster said. "We're trying to get those last stragglers off of the barrier islands".

Hurricane Florence has officially caught our attention due to a shift in the storm trajectory.

Early Wednesday afternoon in North Carolina, the storm was centered 700 kilometers (435 miles) off the coast, moving at 26 kph (16 mph) towards the U.S. coastline.

States of emergency have been declared in North and SC as well as Virginia as the hurricane approaches.

Florence is becoming more of a threat to more people - now including some in Georgia - in more ways. "Expect this storm to batter our state for days".

The hurricane will then gather strength and spread inland as the center of the storm edges toward the coast on Friday afternoon, bringing torrential rainfall of up to 40 inches that will continue through Saturday and Sunday.

Expected to make landfall by Friday, the impact of the storm will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, risky surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.

It is predicted to deliver tropical-storm-force winds by noon Thursday to North Carolina's coast, and hurricane-force winds and risky storm surges by late Thursday or early Friday. Authorities in Chatham County, Georgia, which borders SC and includes the historic port city of Savannah, urged residents who feel unsafe "to evacuate as they see fit".

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"This one really scares me", said National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham.

People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways as Florence bore down for a direct hit in the low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.

This morning, the radar loop out of Morehead North Carolina is beginning to show those fans of heavy rain closing in on the coast.

Hurricane Helene is moving north, where it's expected to become a tropical storm on Thursday.

"I must confess I like the atmosphere around it", he said, looking out over the Atlantic. More than a million people have been urged to evacuate from the storm's path.

When the National Hurricane Updates shared a map of the category four hurricane, dubbed "the storm of a lifetime", on Facebook, people were quick to compare the pink round-headed shape displaying the devastation to something a lot less serious.

Emergency preparations in the region included activating over 2,700 National Guard troops, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so major roads led away from shore, and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations. Slower storms mean more rainfall over a smaller area.

"We are not in a flood plain and because it's not coming directly at us so I think we're going to be OK", she said.

That's because the weather systems that usually push and pull a storm are disappearing as Florence nears land around the border between North and SC.

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