Hurricane Florence strengthens to Category 4

Here's what causes extreme damage in hurricanes

Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and the National Hurricane Center fears the storm "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and risky rainfall event Friday-Sunday". Catastrophic floods could follow if the storm stalls inland, it said. Cars and trucks full of people and belongings streamed inland.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding".

The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge". Experts are saying Florence, a "monster", could be one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the East Coast.

In their latest update at 8am AST (1pm BST), the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) have measured Florence's winds to be at 130mph with higher gusts, making it a category four hurricane.

To hasten evacuations from coastal SC, officials reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so all major roads led away from shore.

"We hope to have something left when we get home", she said. "A lot of local people are staying", she said of the island, which is reachable only by ferry or plane.

Manure lagoons are about as pleasant as they sound-vast open-air ponds of manure located next to the many hog farms near the North Carolina coast.

The NHC experts warned that "life-threatening storm surge (is) possible along the coasts of North and South Carolina".

More news: Hurricane Florence: Your guide to the story

Hurricane-force winds (74 to 95 mph) are now extending out up to 60 miles from the center of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds are being felt as much as 175 miles around the storm. It may move a little north into Virginia or a little south into SC.

Hurricane Watch remains in effect for Charleston and Berkeley Counties, as well as for Charleston Harbor and the nearshore waters adjacent the Charleston County coast Storm Surge Watch remains in effect from Edisto Beach north to South Santee River and Tidal Berkeley County. It is likely to become a Category 5 before landfall.

"The longer it stays, the more wind, the more rain". A hospital in Hampton, Virginia, was transferring patients to safer places.

States of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., ahead of the storm. "We are totally prepared".

Days before its arrival, Florence was already disrupting commercial operations.

About 300,000 people have been evacuated from South Carolina, McMaster said. "That means the more trees that could fall, the more power outages", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said. Many gasoline stations were running low on fuel.

Carol Trojniar, 69, a longtime Wilmington resident and retired estate agent who had never experienced a Category 4 hurricane said: "I'm scared we'll get 30 inches or more of rain". You're going to be displaced from your home in the coastal areas.

"Where alse can we go?"

Across the Piedmont, Charlotte could see around 5 to 10 inches of rain.

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