The startling stats that show the power of Hurricane Florence

As of Wednesday morning, Florence had maximum winds of 130 miles per hour and some strengthening, into a Category 4 storm, is possible today, the National Hurricane Center said. At 11am (1500 GMT) on Wednesday, the storm was located about 485 miles (785 km) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

At 2300 EDT (0300 GMT), the NHC said Florence had maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 km), and was slowly drifting westward over SC.

Highways clogged with people fleeing North and SC early Wednesday as monstrous Category 4 Hurricane Florence rumbled toward the eastern USA as the biggest storm there in decades.

For a swathe of the North Carolina shore from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, the storm surge could range from 9-13 feet, the NHC said.

In neighbouring Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said his state was readying for potentially "historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening flooding, and high winds".

Like most counties in South Carolina, Charleston County - with a population of almost 400,000 people - uses local schools as shelters for storms. "I can't emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm".

Tropical storm-force winds extended 195 miles (315 kilometers) from Florence's center, and hurricane-force winds reached out 70 miles (110 kilometers).

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools and factories were being shuttered.

Forecasters are predicting that Florence will make landfall in the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday as a still powerful Category 3 hurricane. Unfortunately, the heavy rainfall is not restricted to coastal Carolina.

For anyone needing a place to stay to escape the hurricane, both North Carolina and SC are updating their lists of emergency shelters.

The last hurricane rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people.

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.

Florence is predicted to turn more toward the northwest by this afternoon and through Thursday - but then it's expected to head more west-northwest, and stall a bit over the Carolinas.

Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas hard.

Emergency preparations in SC now include more than 2,100 of the state's National Guard soldiers.

In Wilmington, N.C., the fire department is urging people to prepare for at least seven days of hardship, collecting water and nonperishable foods.

In the Charleston region, Walmart closed 10 of its outlets in the area at midnight on Monday after Gov. Henry McMaster issued an evacuation order for the coast of SC.

"This storm is going to be a direct hit", he added. "It's a big one", he said. Rivers will continue to rise days after the rain has stopped, he said.

"We are already experiencing heavily impacted traffic on some of the evacuation routes", said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema). The size of the storm and its expected staying power will make life tough for anyone who decides to try to ride it out (which is not a good idea). "It's called Mother Nature".

  • Joey Payne