According to forecasters, the center of Florence is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday.
Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly to Category 2 even as it blasts toward the Carolinas, carrying sustained winds of 110 miles per hour and the likelihood of "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall", the National Hurricane Center says. But authorities warned it will still be an extremely unsafe hurricane.
"Once those high winds get here.it will be very hard, if not impossible, for anybody to come rescue you if you are in harm's way in one of those zones", McMaster said at a news conference Wednesday. The National Weather Service said about 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches. "It's a big one", he said at the White House.
"Don't play games with it. That varies from one storm to the next", he said.
Forecast models predict Florence's center may slow to a crawl just off North Carolina early Friday and make a southwesterly turn - punishing the coast while moving perhaps only 2 to 3 miles per hour.
Florence could threaten the largest rainfall event in USA history, Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 whirlwind that settled over Texas and dropped more than 60 inches of rain, turning roadways into rivers, destroying homes and buildings and killing almost 90 people. The governor added that a million or more people could be evacuated before the end of the storm. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm. "The largest rain total comes from the GFS showing 1.5" of rain.
More than 1 million people are under mandatory evacuations in the Carolinas and Virginia, and about 30 million across the Southeast will be affected if the forecast holds, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.
He said he's going to spend Thursday with friends at a local beachfront restaurant and bar, and once the storm arrives, he'll watch it from his back porch. Additionally, 509 flights scheduled for Thursday had been grounded and all United flights into and out of Myrtle Beach and Charleston were canceled for Thursday and Friday.More news: Apple iPhone Xs vs iPhone X: Here's what is different
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"In 12 or 18 hours, they may be saying different things all over again", he said. Model data shows Florence being a very patient storm.
Florence's eye could come ashore early Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.
"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety", Deal said. With that much size and strength, even a glancing blow could be devastating - something forecasters stressed as they noted the shift in the predicted track. In South Carolina, Beaufort County Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case.
"We've had our lessons".
"You see people running into the street right in the middle of it, completely blazed out", said Berry, the tattooed barman at Cape Fear Wine and Beer.
Roy Cooper urged residents in evacuation areas of his state to get out while they still can.
Michael Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University, calculates that Florence will deduct about $200 million of output a day from North Carolina's $550 billion-a-year economy until business returns to something close to normal.
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.