The Associated Press WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Motorists streamed inland on highways converted to one-way evacuation routes Tuesday as about 1.7 million people in three states were warned to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a hair-raising storm taking dead aim at the Carolinas with 225 kph winds and potentially ruinous rains.
Florence was expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and wring itself out for days, unloading 0.3 to 0.6 meters of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.
Forecasters and politicians pleaded with the public to take the warnings seriously and minced no words in describing the threat.
“This storm is a monster. It’s big and it’s vicious. It is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
He added: “The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”
Some hoped for divine intervention.
“I’m prayed up and as ready as I can get,” Steven Hendrick said as he filled up gasoline cans near Conway, S.C.
More than 5.4 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches on the U.S. East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, and another 4 million people were under a tropical storm watch.
U.S. President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid. He said the federal government is “absolutely, totally prepared” for Florence.
All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast. But getting out of harm’s way could prove difficult.
Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 485 kilometers ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swath from South Carolina to Ohio and Pennsylvania could get deluged.