"United States readies for 'big one" as Hurricane Florence approaches Carolinas

Hurricane Florence from space

Hurricane Florence from space

Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm but it is still considered an extremely risky and life-threatening storm.

Shortly before 2 p.m. ET, Florence was 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C., moving northwest at 16 mph, the National Hurricane Center says.

"The preparations for a hurricane began long before the past few hours or days", North Carolina Pork Council President Brandon Warren said in a statement.

McMaster ordered mandatory evacuation of coastal SC counties on Tuesday.

Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC, where some areas could see as much as 1 metre of rain, to Virginia.

While those in Hurricane Florence's path are stocking up on necessities, companies around the country are gearing up to help in the storm's wake.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — Hurricane Florence put a corridor of more than 10 million people in the crosshairs Wednesday as the monster storm closed in on the Carolinas, uncertainty over its projected path spreading worry across a widening swath of the Southeast.

Forecasters say Florence is expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and dump 1 to 2½ feet of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

"Historical rainfall amounts from #Florence are possible with UNPRECEDENTED flooding", according to the National Weather Service office in Newport and Morehead City, on North Carolina's coast.

Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses could be flooded in North Carolina alone, Governor Cooper warned. Current forecasts call for Florence to be at least a Category 3 storm when it arrives at the Carolinas. Tropical Storm Isaac was expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land.

With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard. "Get food, water. Medications they may need".

Florence is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 20 to 30 inches along the North Carolina coast - and possibly 40 inches in some spots. "Florence is expected to slow down considerably by late Thursday into Friday, and move slowly through early Saturday".

The tropical storm-force winds extend 280 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, which is far enough to reach from Boston to Philadelphia.

"Just because we have a landfall to your south, that doesn't mean you're out of the woods, because the winds are huge around this system", NHC Director Ken Graham said, pointing out the wide risk of flooding.

"We are already experiencing heavily impacted traffic on some of the evacuation routes", said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte. "We know there's probably going to be loss of power for a number of days".

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