The storm threatened to hit coastal North and SC with 130 mile per hour (210 kph) winds and massive waves when it makes landfall on Friday, and its rains will take a heavy toll for miles inland, the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned.
The slow-moving storm, the most severe hurricane to threaten the USA mainland this year, was located about 785 miles (1,260 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT), according to the NHC.
States of emergency were declared by Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser for the nation's capital; requested by Virginia's governor; and approved by President Donald Trump for North and SC. "Historically, storms that have taken the track Florence has taken turn north into the Atlantic Ocean before ever reaching the USA coast". It is expected to make landfall in the US, Thursday as an "extremely dangerous" hurricane according to the National Hurricane Center.
It added that the hurricane should approach the USA coast by Thursday.
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By 5 pm, the storm's winds had again increased to 140 miles per hour, with even stronger gusts.
Boeing suspended operations Tuesday at plants in North Charleston, South Carolina, to give employees and their families time to evacuate ahead of Florence's making landfall. What you may be hearing about this storm isn't fear mongering because the potential of the storm is so great. Officials have declared states of emergency in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
He said the agency has implemented changes since 2017, improving their partnerships with the private sector, in particular fuel, transportation and electrical companies, to better meet needs on the ground after a disaster.
A wider area will be impacted as Florence moves inland.
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Two other storms were spinning in the Atlantic as the 2018 hurricane season reaches its peak.
Liz Browning Fox was planning to ride out the storm on the Outer Banks, defying evacuation orders.
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"You're going to get heavy rain, catastrophic life-threatening storm surge, and also the winds", Graham said. Since reliable record-keeping began more than 150 years ago, North Carolina has only been hit by one Category 4 hurricane - Hazel, with 130mph winds, in 1954. Helene is expected to veer north well before coming close to the coast, though Isaac is expected to turn into a hurricane as it continues heading west towards the Windward Islands, the Miami Herald wrote.
Forecasters have warned the hurricane is expected to strengthen through Tuesday evening into Wednesday, but weaken on Thursday.
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Florence's storm surge threatens more than 750,000 homes in the region North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, according to the property analytics firm CoreLogic.