'Don't play games with it': Florence takes aim at Carolinas

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Gas prices on the U.S. East Coast are expected to surge this week ahead of and during Hurricane Florence's landfall, as residents have started to evacuate from the Carolinas and Virginia, for which U.S. President Donald Trump has declared that a state of emergency exists.

Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Outer Banks as Florence continued its push west as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday, The News & Observer reported. The storm was about 235 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and was moving at about 17 mph on Thursday.

Forecast models predict Florence's center may slow to a crawl just off North Carolina early Friday and make a southwesterly turn - punishing the coast while moving perhaps only 2 to 3 miles per hour. He cited forecasts showing Florence was likely to stall over North Carolina, "bringing days and days of rain".

A risky Hurricane Florence is steadily making its way to the U.S. East Coast.

Mayor Joe Benson of Carolina Beach, a small town near Wilmington with a permanent population of about 6,300, said he believes half of the residents have stayed on the island.

So far during in 2018 Atlantic hurricane season there have been nine tropical storms, of which five - Beryl, Chris, Helen, Isaac and Florence - have become hurricanes.

Communities in Florence's path could lose electricity for weeks due to downed power lines and flooded equipment, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said.

The National Hurricane Center is predicting the storm will produce "catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding".

There is increased fear that Florence "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and unsafe rainfall event Friday-Sunday", the NHC said Tuesday. Massive waves from the hurricane will make the rush of water even more risky and damaging, the National Hurricane Center warned.

Rainfall totals from Hurricane Florence will top 20 inches in some areas, the National Weather Service says. It is the most risky of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.

Forecasters said Wednesday that Florence's wind field is expanding, making it a large, stable hurricane with a clearly defined eye at its center.

Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.

According to the latest models, the coastal areas of Charleston and Berkeley counties have the highest risk in the Lowcountry region for unsafe winds that could destroy trees, structures and create massive power outages.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid. Cars and trucks full of people and belongings streamed inland.