Hurricane Florence prompts mass evacuations

'This is a big storm': Results could be catastrophic

Florence is still a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 130 miles per hour.

The incoming storm has prompted mass evacuations, primarily along the coastlines of North and South Carolina, and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Tuesday that his state is in "a very deadly and important game of chess with Hurricane Florence".

Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20in of rain, if not more, with as much as 10in elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington DC.

These alerts are usually issued about 48 hours before storms are set to touch down, when the arrival of tropical force winds would make any last-minute preparation hard.

For those in the path of the storm looking for a place to store their belongings, news organization WJZY has listed each U-Haul storage facility and address taking part in the 30-day program.

Heavy rain may extend as far inland as Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city, though the severity will depend on the storm's track, according to The Charlotte Observer.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to portions of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states.

"The focus should be on the potential for torrential downpours that will lead to potentially life-threatening flooding", said meteorologist Scott Sharp.

He said: "What it has from tomorrow right on into Saturday paralleling the coast with weak steering currents - it sits off the coast and basically sits and spins and becomes a storm surge machine". So we could have two landfalls - one around Wilmington and then one near Myrtle Beach or even south of there. "It's a big one", he said.

The last time the USA capital declared a state of emergency was in January 2016 when a winter storm dubbed "Snowzilla" blanketed the capital region in knee-deep snow.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper told locals not to "bet your life on riding out a monster", with ferocious winds set to batter the shoreline.

Briefing from the Oval Office, President Donald Trump urged people to heed orders to evacuate, saying "if you are asked to leave, get out".

Florence would be the strongest storm to make landfall anywhere on the East Coast since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit. "It's going to be really, really bad along the coast", Trump said.

"We will experience power outages, we will have infrastructure damaged, there will be homes damaged, and there will be debris on the roads", said Jeff Byard, an official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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