ABC News(NEW YORK) — Millions are being told to evacuate as the North and South Carolina coasts prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm that continues to strengthen into "an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday night."
The National Hurricane Center is offering that warning on Tuesday morning as hurricane watches and storm surge watches were issued for the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina for the first time.
Hurricane Florence is packing maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and higher gusts on Tuesday morning. The storm is expected to make landfall along the North Carolina coast, possibly as a Category 4 storm, overnight Thursday into Friday.
In addition to winds, the storm is expected to slow as it moves onto the coast and could deliver 15 to 20 inches of rain, with 30 inches locally, in North Carolina, Virginia and northern South Carolina, the NHC said.
The NHC is already warning for the possibility of "life-threatening inundation" from storm surge from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border in the next 48 hours.
Storm surge could be as high as 6 to 12 feet from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout on North Carolina's southeast coast. Further south, from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, to Cape Fear could see 4 to 6 feet of surge and further north, from Cape Lookout to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, could see 5 to 8 feet of storm surge.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory evacuation of most of the state's coast beginning at noon on Tuesday. McMaster estimated about 1 million residents would be fleeing the coast before Florence's arrival.
Coastal areas of North Carolina began evacuating on Monday, with a second wave at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Evacuations were also ordered along the Virginia coast for about 245,000 people, according to Gov. Ralph Northam.
Florence was located about 410 miles south of Bermuda and 975 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, on Tuesday at 5 a.m. The storm is moving west-northwest at 15 mph.
Schools are packing up just days in the new year, as well. North Carolina State, University of North Carolina and UNC-Wilmington have all suspended classes, with UNC-Wilmington evacuating its coastline campus by noon Tuesday. In South Carolina, schools including The Citadel, Coastal Carolina University and College of Charleston have all closed until further notice.
While the military has moved 30 Navy ships based in Norfolk, Virginia, including the aircraft carriers USS George H.W. Bush and USS Abraham Lincoln, almost 1,000 National Guard troops have been activated in North and South Carolina to help with any possible hurricane-related problems.
States of emergency have been declared in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, with President Donald Trump approving emergency declarations in South and North Carolina. The president has spoken to the governors of both Carolinas and Virginia, the White House said Monday.
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