The National Hurricane Center says that a life-threatening storm surge could hit Southeast Virginia as early as Tuesday morning.
The governors of North and SC and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm.
The first effects were already being seen on barrier islands as risky rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster urged people to take the forecasts seriously, saying in a press conference Sunday, "Pretend, presume and assume that a major hurricane is going to hit smack dab in the middle of South Carolina".
The center of Florence was forecast to sweep between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday before making its assault on the USA coast.
With "monumental" rainfall totals of up to 40 inches possible, "the rain from Florence may break all-time state records for rainfall from a hurricane or tropical storm", Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters said.
South Carolina's governor ordered the state's entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday, and predicted that a million people would flee.
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The Dare County Commission ordered evacuations of Hatteras Island, also part of the Outer Banks, on Monday and Tuesday. "But on rare occasions, the steering patterns can line up such that a storm slips into a dead zone between troughs and ridges".
Stay with WTOC for the latest information on Lowcountry closings and weather as Hurricane Florence continues to draw closer. It was picking up speed over the warm waters of the Atlantic, causing forecasters to worry not only about landfall - but about flooding brought by heavy rains afterward, possibly late Thursday or Friday.
I have ordered a full coastal evacuation effective noon tomorrow, Tuesday, September 11. As the forecast becomes clearer, Florence poses three challenges: coastal storm surge, strong winds and inland flooding that inundates rivers and low-lying ground. SC is one-waying several interstates including I-26 out of Charleston.
The governors of Maryland and Virginia have also declared a state of emergency.
There have only been 26 category 4 hurricanes to ever make landfall in the us since 1850. Evacuations were happening along the coast of North and South Carolina, and the projected landfall was expected between Charleston, South Carolina, and Norfolk, Virginia.
"We know the evacuation order I'm issuing will be inconvenient", McMaster said.
Following Hurricane Florence are two more powerful storms crossing the Atlantic, namely Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene. And if it comes this way, we're going to be in for one - a big storm.
The airline issued a travel alert for 23 airports in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia due to Hurricane Florence. The storm is moving west-northwest at 15 miles per hour. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes, fill sandbags and secure their homes.