Packing maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour (225 km per hour), the storm ranked as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and was expected to grow stronger and larger over the next few days, the NHC said. "Now's the time to prepare".
What's more, the research found that storms of super extreme intensity, with maximum sustained winds above 190 miles per hour, also became more common.
NHC forecasts showed the effects of Florence would be widely felt, with tropical storm-force winds extending almost 300 miles across three states.
SC governor Henry McMaster said an estimated one million people would be fleeing his state's coast, with eastbound lanes of major routes reversed to ease the exodus. It's now predicted to make landfall somewhere north of Wilmington, N.C., before its center heads inland toward the cities of Raleigh and Durham.
According to AAA, the storm "will likely have an impact on East Coast gas prices this week should the storm follow its projected path".
North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper, said: "North Carolina is taking #HurricaneFlorence seriously, and you should too". "People are doing a pretty good job now. Make sure you have flashlights and batteries", Bowser said. "I don't know where to go from here", she said.
In neighboring Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said that, in declaring an emergency, his state was readying for potentially "historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening flooding, and high winds". The school said the decision came after discussions with West Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Conference and emergency management officials.
He said Congress would be generous with disaster relief funding. "At this point, it's a waiting game, but we're not taking any chances".
The water could rise 6 to 12 feet in the area of Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, including the Neuse and Pamlico rivers, says the National Hurricane Center.
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It's expected to be the worst in the region since Hurricane Hazel made landfall near the North Carolina-South Caroline border in 1954.
Kevin Orth loads sandbags into cars in Charleston, SC, as he helps residents prepare for Hurricane Florence.
Although the storm's winds will likely diminish rapidly after making landfall, the heavy rain will persist as it stalls over portions of North Carolina and Virginia. That could bring prolonged heavy rainfall. While wind damage is still ordinarily covered, insurers that were stung by storms such as Sandy in 2012, which swamped NY and New Jersey, have inserted clauses in their policies that limit coverage and set high deductibles, particularly when storms reach hurricane status.
A storm covering enormous area, to drench and lash more people.
As of Tuesday morning, Hurricane Florence is still a Category 4, but Gentry said the rain total prediction has changed to three to six inches. But the storm is expected to strengthen again over the next day or so.
Although Florence was still days from arrival, authorities took extraordinary measures to move people out of harm's way.
If a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) does make landfall along the Southeast coast, the rarity of such an event is relevant. "That, folks, is extremely life-threatening". "The ground is already saturated and any winds could put down some trees and pose a problem".
"The time to hope Hurricane Florence away is gone", he said. "There's no canned goods", Kristin Harrington said as she shopped at a Walmart in Wilmington. "It's weakened, but unfortunately, the eye has expanded out to a diameter now of about 30-35 nautical miles".
"Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls".