Millions braced as 'staggering' hurricane nears USA east coast

Millions braced as 'staggering' hurricane nears USA east coast

Millions braced as 'staggering' hurricane nears USA east coast

Florence may grow to a Category 5 hurricane by the time it hits the North Carolina coast early Friday morning. The tropical storm-force winds stretch more than 315 miles, which is far enough to reach from Washington DC to Charlotte, North Carolina.

A hurricane watch is now in effect for hundreds of miles of the U.S. East Coast, from Edisto Beach in SC up north to the North Carolina-Virginia border.

"Dangerous Florence", as the official update calls it, is highly likely to bring with it life-threatening storm surges and catastrophic flash flooding, and damaging hurricane-force winds across vast stretches of SC and North Carolina.

Forecasters with the NHC said that the hurricane would near Category 5 in strength - which is at the top of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale - by Tuesday afternoon.

Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia on Thursday or early Friday, prompting evacuation orders for more than a million people.

If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other risky conditions.

If the storm tracks further west than anticipated, weather along the Cumberland Plateau could turn "a bit more showery and breezy", the NWS said, "but for now things are looking pretty good for the Mid-State".

Strong high pressure will build back into Montreal this week, after the passage of post topical storm Gordon Monday night.

Communities in Florence's path could be without electricity for weeks due to downed power lines and flooded equipment, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said. One power station, Duke Energy Corp's Brunswick plant, the closest to the area where landfall is forecast, faced a likely shutdown as a precaution. "We are expecting more wind than we had with Hugo and more water than we had with Matthew".

The American Red Cross said more than 700 workers were headed to the region while shelters were set up to house those unable to flee. "We are in a very deadly and important game of chess with Hurricane Florence". "We are sharing information with local officials so they can prepare".

Trump faced severe criticism for his administration's response to Hurricane Maria previous year in Puerto Rico. Another four million people are under a tropical storm watch.

Days before its arrival, Florence was already disrupting commercial operations.

Residents boarded up their homes and stripped grocery stores bare of food, water and supplies.

"The governor said that North Carolina is the bull's eye of this hurricane", Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, said in an interview. Many gasoline stations were running low on fuel. Tuesday's 7-day rainfall forecast showed 20 inches or more falling there, part of a wide swath of rainfall that could total ten inches or more over much of Virginia and drench the nation's capital. "What is flooding going to do to our home, our city?" "If we try to leave, we'll just get stuck in the rain", she said.

"Where else can we go?"

But while wind speed offers an easily quantifiable way to rate unsafe storms, forecasters are warning people not to fixate on that, saying that saltwater from the storm surge and freshwater from heavy rains pose a serious threat, no matter what the top winds are when the hurricane makes landfall.

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