Florence is now a powerful Category 3 storm with winds of 125mph, and is expected to strengthen before making landfall along the Carolina coast later this week.
On the forecast track, the center was expected to move between Bermuda and the Bahamas, approaching the coast of North or SC on Thursday and Friday, then meander near the coastline through Saturday.
Bryan Wood, a meteorologist and storm-damage analyst for Assurant Inc., said that Florence will hamper businesses even after it degrades from hurricane status.
The time to prepare is nearly over, he said. He urged people to leave immediately rather than face the wrath of the "once in a lifetime" storm.
People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways early Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.
Strong winds, storm surge, and flash flooding are major concerns for Florence and rains in excess of 20 inches can be expected in the Cape Fear region.
He said much will depend on when, where and how fast it hits ground.
Tropical Storm Florence crawls inland as it batters North and SC
The rest of SC and North Carolina into southwestern Virginia will experience 5 to 10 inches, with isolated totals up to 15 inches. Roads in its vicinity were flooded as well. "The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation, and it's getting worse".
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Emergency preparations in SC now include more than 2,100 of the state's National Guard soldiers.
Florence could become the most powerful storm to hit the area in more than 60 years if its intensity continues.
The Charleston International Airport will close Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. until further notice, reports George Kearns of South Carolina Public Radio. But his partner, Emily Whisler, said she will remain behind at the university where she is a resident in the psychiatry program.
The National Hurricane Center projects rainfall anywhere from 5 to 20 inches across SC.
"In light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall, I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas", he said.
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The enormous waves were recorded in the northeast quadrant of the hurricane , which is the strongest area of the storm. The agency is also monitoring a tropical disturbance that has a 60 percent chance of forming a tropical storm .
FEMA looks to Waffle House as Hurricane Florence approaches
Waffle House has always been a popular spot for round-the-clock comfort food for locals and travelers alike throughout the South. So if a Waffle House closes, that's how you know the storm is really bad, or is predicted to be that way.
Over 895,000 without power as Florence batters Carolinas
Along with this projection, NHC warned of "life-threatening" storm surges and floods throughout both North Carolina and SC . He earlier said the storm system "is unloading epic amounts of rainfall: in some places, measured in feet, not inches".
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