Expert warnings for Hurricane Florence

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More than one million people were ordered to evacuate their homes along the United States southeast coast as Hurricane Florence, the most powerful storm to threaten the Carolinas in almost three decades, barrelled closer.

President Trump said the hurricane is predicted to be one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast in years as he warned residents to be prepared and to be careful.

The threat of unsafe storm surges of up to 13ft and hurricane force winds across the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states is high. The litany of weather models vary in where they take the storm, with some going west-southwest and others going northwest. Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different.

He did confirm models were picking up on some wind shear - when wind blows in the opposite direction and disrupts a system - entering the equation around the time of expected landfall late Thursday into Friday.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that it would be monitoring nine toxic waste cleanup sites near the Carolinas coast for potential flooding.

The water could reach as high as 9 to 13 feet "from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay Rivers".

When it reaches the coastline, it could sit around for days, unloading life-threatening storm surge, risky winds and flooding rain. The U.S. military has begun evacuating some people in the area, including from the Marine Corps' recruit training depot at Parris Island, S.C., which sits in a marshy area on the coast. "But hey, if it helps get people out of harm's way, then mission accomplished".

Air Canada and WestJet Airlines also issued travel advisories and offered to allow passengers to change certain flights free of charge to affected areas in the USA southeast, Barbados and Hawaii. Charleston International Airport in SC tweeted that it expected to close runways by midnight Wednesday. But as he stands out on Wrightsville Beach this week to tell the world about the incoming hurricane, he's not holding back because he knows lives depend on him.

"This morning I drove around for an hour looking for gas in Cary".

Some residents have already left, but others have made a decision to stay and have been barricading their homes and stocking food supplies. Some store shelves were picked clean.

"There's no water, there's no juices, there's no canned goods", Kristin Harrington said as she shopped at a Walmart in Wilmington. A hospital in Hampton, Virginia, was transferring patients to safer places. Wild horses on the barrier islands were expected to survive. The storm is now about 950 miles from the Carolina coast line, but moving in that direction at about 15 mph.

ABC News Rainfall could be as much as 40 inches locally along the North Carolina coast
ABC News Rainfall could be as much as 40 inches locally along the North Carolina coast

Hurricane Florence, a powerful Category 4 hurricane poised to strengthen over the next 24 hours, is expected to make landfall somewhere between North and SC by late Thursday. A Category 4 hurricane at its strongest, Olivia spent about a week swishing around in the Pacific Ocean without making landfall before it weakened into a tropical storm.

Florence quickly intensified from a Category 1 Hurricane the morning of September 10, 2018 to a Category 4 Hurricane by midafternoon. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.

The storm will most likely strike the coast of North Carolina or SC by late Thursday.

Hurricane Camille formed in the Gulf of Mexico and hit MS as a Category 5 storm.

The National Hurricane Center predicts its maximum winds could still reach 155 mph at peak intensity on Wednesday, which is just 3 kilometres per hour short of a Category 5 designation.

State and federal officials have frequently urged residents in the target zone to evacuate but there was resistance along the coast. "Also, understand that a lot of people are going to be without power probably for several days if not longer".

The last Category 4 hurricane to plough into North Carolina was Hazel in 1952, a devastating storm that killed 19 people and destroyed some 15,000 homes.

Forecasters expect 12 to 18 inches of rain with locally higher amounts.

"We are sparing no expense". Meteorologists struggled Tuesday to identify where exactly the storm will come ashore. Ryan Moser, a spokesman for the North Carolina-based electricity company Duke Energy, said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive. Typically, local governments in North Carolina make the call on evacuations.

The video tracks across the swirling clouds at the outer edges of the hurricane before passing over the eye.