Hurricane Florence: ‘Extremely dangerous’ storm threatens East Coast
Evacuations have been ordered as the US East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence – in what may be the strongest storm to hit the region in decades.
South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia have declared states of emergency, and residents are stocking up on essential supplies.
Officials say Florence is now a category four storm with 130mph (195km/h) winds, and gaining strength.
It is expected to strike the Carolinas by Thursday.
Florence – which was 1,200 miles (2,000km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, on Monday morning – started the day as a category two storm.
International Space Station astronaut Ricky Arnold took this photo of Florence on 6 September
The weather system could reach category five as its draws strength from the warm Atlantic waters, say forecasters.
It would be the first category four storm to hit the region since Hugo ravaged North Carolina in 1989, wreaking $7bn (£5.3bn) in damage and claiming 49 lives.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says Florence has the makings of an “extremely dangerous” meteorological event.
It may bring catastrophic levels of rain and flooding to coastal and inland regions.
The NHC said: “There is an increasing risk of life-threatening impacts from Florence: storm surge at the coast, freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event inland, and damaging hurricane-force winds.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Miller told The State newspaper in South Carolina: “Somebody is going to suffer devastating damage if this storm continues as it is currently forecast.”
US President Donald Trump has cancelled plans for a rally on Friday in Mississippi because of the hurricane.
North Carolina officials on Monday ordered residents to evacuate the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands.
There have been long queues in supermarkets around communities near waterways and coastlines as residents clear shelves of water, batteries and plywood.
South Carolina’s state emergency management agency said on Sunday that it is “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster”.
“Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore,” said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.
In North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper waived agricultural transportation restrictions in order to allow farmers to move goods more quickly.
“During harvest, time is of the essence. Action today can avoid losses due to Florence.”