States Prepare for ‘Storm of a Lifetime’ as Hurricane Florence Looms

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

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

Forecasters are anxious about the surge from Hurricane Florence, which is expected to be a major storm when it pounds the Carolinas on Thursday and Friday.

North Florida is still outside the cone of forecast tracks for the center of the storm, but the size of Florence means impacts will extend to a large area of the Southeast.

As of 11am local time (3am NZT), Florence, a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm, was centred 785 kilometres southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 24kmh.

While people on the ground are preparing for floods, high winds and surging waves, the satellites and astronauts in orbit are looking down on the storm from above, and the views are startling.

"I'm scared we'll get 30 inches or more of rain", said Carol Trojniar, 69, a longtime Wilmington resident and retired real estate agent who has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane. It was packing winds of 215kmh and enough moisture to dump 30cm of rain on the region.

Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 300 miles ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swathe from SC to OH and Pennsylvania could get deluged.

What's more certain is beach erosion and risky surf conditions.

At Fort Bragg, an inland Army base in North Carolina, officials told The Fayetteville Observer the majority of the 82nd Airborne Division's helicopter fleet was being evacuated to one of two sites in Georgia.

"No matter where this storm comes ashore, it will have widespread, significant impacts in North Carolina", he said. She was going to ride the storm out in the Myrtle Beach area where she lives.

Another commenter said: 'That hurricane better be taking me to dinner first'.

The center also says the storm could become more powerful.

"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.

Cooper and his SC counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been told to leave that if they don't, they are on their own.

The National Weather Service says nearly half of all deaths from tropical cyclones come from storm surge. And then from there, it's going across the area meaning a big flooding threat is in the forecast. All lanes of Interstate 26 are westbound to allow more people to leave the coast and head inland toward the state capital of Columbia.

With the storm churning across the Atlantic with 140 miles per hour winds, hurricane watches and warnings include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast.

"The biggest thing is you're always anxious about yourself and friends and family - and whether they'll have a place to come back to", he said. President Trump has declared an emergency in the three states and says the government is "as ready as anybody has ever been".

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