More than a million people are expected to flee low-lying areas, as SC and Virginia ordered mandatory evacuations of coastal areas starting on Tuesday. Sustained winds were 130 miles per hour (215 kph) Tuesday morning, but it remains a Category 4 storm and is expected to intensify to near Category 5 status as it slows over very warm coastal waters.
Hurricane and Storm Surge Watches have been issued for the east coast of the United States from Edisto Beach, South Carolina northward to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.
A warm ocean gives hurricanes their energy, and Florence is moving over an area with water temperatures nearing 85F (30C), hurricane specialist Eric Blake reported.
On Tuesday, Washington D.C.'s mayor, Muriel Bowser, declared a state of emergency in the District ahead of the hurricane, effective immediately. It is expected to make landfall in the US, Thursday as an "extremely dangerous" hurricane according to the National Hurricane Center. Coastal areas are at greatest risk of seeing sustained winds to 100+mph and gusts well above that. Again, weakening doesn't mean it's not a big storm, this just means that we may go lower in category as the storm approaches the coastline.
"It's too early at this point to be precise with how these impacts are going to stack up", he said, "but there is a huge potential someone is going to sustain devastating impacts as a result of this storm".
"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm anxious about the rain and tornadoes too", Roberts said.
Florence is expected to stall over the region, bringing a deluge of 15 to 20 inches of water to some areas, according to the most recent predictions.
Trump faced severe criticism for his administration's response to Hurricane Maria a year ago in Puerto Rico. Charles Mullen, 81, a longtime resident of Hatteras Island, North Carolina, said he had ridden out many storms and that most locals were planning to stay unless Florence took aim at Hatteras.
At the time of this writing using the latest information from the NWS, the storm is 651 kilometers (405 miles) south of Bermuda. Up to three feet of rain could fall in some areas in a short period of time.
A special NY task force is heading south to help with Hurricane Florence. The forecast continues to call for Florence to slam ashore as a major - Category 3 or stronger - storm before weakening slightly, but still as hurricane, as it heads inland.
Authorities in coastal towns have told residents to pick up sandbags and in North Carolina they are already preparing bulldozers and chain saws in case they are needed in any future clean-up and rescue operations. It's expected to make landfall Thursday into Friday.