'Monster' Hurricane Florence Barrels Toward the Carolinas

Should other states request storm-related assistance from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, GEMA would in turn ask its Athens counterpart if the county could lend a hand by sending supplies or personnel to storm-ravaged areas.

"This is a very fluid situation, especially now that new model runs are shifting the course of the storm south after landfall, potentially increasing its impact on SC and Georgia", St. Mary's Hospital spokesman Mark Ralston said.

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

Residents along the coast boarded up their homes, lined up at gas stations and emptied supermarket shelves.

Even with some weakening that's predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a risky major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said.

Thousands of residents in North and SC have fled their homes as Hurricane Florence, the biggest of the extreme weather conditions on the map, looks set to tear its way through the eastern seaboard.

In the press conference, Cooper noted the forecast calls for storm surge taller than many homes.

As of Tuesday (Wednesday NZT), about 1.7 million people in North and SC and Virginia were under warnings to evacuate the coast, and hurricane watches and warnings extended across an area with about 5.4 million residents.

Why Hurricane Florence Is So Dangerous
For a swath of the North Carolina shore from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, the storm surge could range from 9-13 feet, the NHC said. Usually storms come to the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic from the south - and those usually curve safely out to sea.

"All my staff are gone", Thompson said.

Mayor Joe Benson of Carolina Beach, a small town near Wilmington with a permanent population of about 6,300, said he believes half of the residents have stayed on the island.

At 5 a.m., the storm was centered 575 miles (925 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph (28 kph).

All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast. "This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast".

Even more troubling is the amount of rain that could fall in southeastern North Carolina due to the storm slowing down or stalling out. Schools in 26 of the state's 46 counties were ordered closed.

North Carolina officials evacuated long-term care facilities and hundreds of prisoners in vulnerable areas, and also closed state parks, museums and other attractions.

Barish writes that overall, casual dining restaurants are more likely to take a hit from Florence than quick-serve restaurants, but restaurants in general could get a bit of a boost on a same-store-sales basis.

In Virginia, mandatory evacuations began Tuesday for about 245,000 residents in a portion of the Eastern Shore area. He urged people to leave immediately rather than face the wrath of the "once in a lifetime" storm.

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