Florence Now A Major Category 4 Hurricane

International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6

For many, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Hurricane Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could carry torrential rains up into the Appalachian mountains, causing flash floods, mudslides and other risky weather across a wide area.

As Hurricane Florence reaches Category 4 strength, the Midlands is bracing for both high winds and flooding.

Some parts of the Outer Banks have already issued evacuations.

As impacts here from Florence become more clear, we will share updates with you on TV and online.

Hurricane Florence is rapidly intensifying as it heads toward the eastern U.S.

"Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland". The cone of uncertainty this far out in the forecast period stretches over 400 miles since landfall is not expected until Thursday night.

Florence's max sustained winds have been clocked at 130 miles per hour with an further increase expected on Monday.

NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center/Handout via REUTERSHurricane Florence seen over the Atlantic Ocean, about 750 miles southeast of Bermuda, on September 9.

Florence was producing large swells expected to reach from the northern Caribbean to the southern coasts of Canada's Maritime provinces.

Cooper's emergency declaration makes it possible to waive the state's transportation rules so North Carolina farmers can harvest and transport their crops to market faster. So it may shift over the coming days, but if predictions hold, Florence is set to be the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina since Hurricane Hugo tore through the state in 1989. Any Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane is classified as a major hurricane. And out here we're so fragile. "We just happen to be right in the middle". "We know we can't play around with this", said Jennifer Oosterwyk, who owns the Sugar Britches boutique on Holden Beach and lives in nearby Wilmington.

The storm is now expected to careen into the Carolina coast on Thursday or early Friday, and USA Today reports North Carolina is already in preparation mode: Gov. Roy Cooper has requested a federal declaration disaster, and Cape Hatteras Island is under a mandatory evacuation order for Monday; Duck and Corolla face the same order for Tuesday. SC ordered an estimated 1 million people to evacuate its coast.

AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossi said the ground in North and SC and Virginia is already saturated from recent rains.

Red flags have already been flying on beaches, warning swimmers to stay out of the water as seas began kicking up.

"This is still a very unsafe storm", South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said at a Tuesday news conference. The state's emergency management agency said it is "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster".

Approximately 1 million people in eight counties have until noon on Tuesday to evacuate, the governor said. "People are getting frantic", assistant manager Nadine Schrock said, adding her shop also sold out of cases of bottled water.

"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm anxious about the rain and tornadoes too", Roberts said.

In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told not to leave their vehicles at the sprawling base later this week because of the flood threat.

The U.S. Navy is also taking precautions, with the U.S. Fleet Forces Command ordering almost 30 ships in the Hampton Roads area of the Virginia coast to head out to sea to avoid the storm.

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