'Now is the time' to evacuate Hurricane Florence danger, officials urge

'This is a big storm': Results could be catastrophic

Latest forecasts Wednesday afternoon showed Florence stalling once it comes ashore near the North Carolina-South Carolina border, possibly drifting southwest and setting parts of the Carolinas up for potentially devastating flooding.

People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes. "This is a storm that is historic, maybe once in a lifetime".

Most models showed the storm hovering over the central Carolinas through the weekend, with the eye moving into central SC by 8 a.m. Sunday.

The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut to allow traffic to flow inland, but the exodus was slow along roads jammed with outward-bound vehicles.

The storm is now expected to make landfall in the lower Outer Banks of North Carolina early Friday morning or possibly stay in the ocean before making a shift to the left toward SC. The National Hurricane Center said it had winds of 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour and a threat of "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall".

Schools in southeastern North Carolina were closed on Tuesday and will not reopen until Monday.

"This one really scares me", National Hurricane Centre director Ken Graham said.

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The US carrier said it was offering a travel waiver for customers ticketed on flights to, from or through affected cities from September 10 through to September 16. There are concerns that it could knock out power for weeks.

Many coastal areas in the Carolinas and Virginia are under mandatory evacuations. "There will be flooding in inland areas as well". "This is not going to be a glancing blow", Byard explained. Tropical Storm Isaac was east of the Lesser Antilles and expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land.

Hurricane Florence, the monster Category 3 storm taking aim at the North and SC coastline, is expected to make landfall by the end of this week and bring with it devastating wind, rain and storm surge.

Meteorologists are warning of potentially catastrophic flooding in the area, with isolated amounts of up to 40 inches of rain expected in parts of SC.

The last time the U.S. capital declared a state of emergency was in January 2016 when a winter storm dubbed "Snowzilla" blanketed the capital region in knee-deep snow.

The threat has sparked a rush of evacuation efforts in SC and North Carolina, with more than a million people urged to get out of Florence's way.

Gloria Harris said she didn't know her home at the Brentwood West Apartments complex, near Marsh Creek in north Raleigh, was flood-prone.

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Another commenter said: 'That hurricane better be taking me to dinner first'.

Charleston, resident William Belli said he would not be among those joining the exodus. 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.

"I will enjoy the quiet", he said.

In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate.

To hasten evacuations from coastal SC, officials reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so all major roads led away from shore.

Although Carolina coastlines will be met with storm surges, out in the open ocean Florence is producing rather terrifying waves.

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