More than 1 million people have been issued evacuation orders along the coastal areas of Virginia, North Carolina and SC, as the storm is not expected to weaken until it makes landfall Thursday in the Carolinas.
Coastal North Carolina felt the first bite of Hurricane Florence on Thursday as winds began to rise, a prelude to the slow-moving tempest that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the us southeast.
President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.
Hurricane Florence has slightly increased in speed as it heads toward the U.S. East Coast. William & Mary has canceled events from Friday through Sunday, including its football opener against Elon on Saturday.
From the livestock industry, one environmental impact from the storm could be from the lagoons, or lined earthen pits, that hold treated manure. It may move a little north into Virginia or a little south into SC.
The forecasts for devastating rain and winds also had WH Group's Smithfield Foods, the largest US pork processor, planning to shut two of its North Carolina plants - including the world's biggest hog slaughterhouse. A year ago, people would have laughed off such a forecast, but the European model was accurate in predicting 152cm of rain for Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, so "you start to wonder what these models know that we don't", said University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy.
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A Category 5 hurricane can generate sustained winds at 251 kilometres per hour.
Hurricanes nearly always set off an orchestrated dance on Wall Street before they make landfall, with shares of property and casualty insurance companies dumped in favour of companies that sell construction supplies or portable generators.
Florence's large size - tropical storm force winds extend 170 miles from the center in all directions - means its fury will arrive long before the center of the storm comes ashore, Graham said.
Karen Clark & Co., which produces models for catastrophes, said that if 1989's Hurricane Hugo had hit SC in 2012, just 23 years later, insurance losses would have more than doubled to $10 billion when development and inflation are factored in.
Florence is also expected to bring heavy flooding across the region. Additionally, there will be damaging winds that could top 100 miles per hour, isolated tornadoes, and "devastating" storm surge.
"While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane through landfall". "We are sparing no expense", said the president.
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Florence will unload up to 40 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina. It says total rainfall could reach 30 inches in some places, prompting life-threatening flash flooding from SC to Northern Virginia.
Urging residents to evacuate, he said Florence was "the strongest storm to target the Carolinas and this part of the country in decades".
Virginia, home to major government and military facilities, declared a state of emergency and 245,000 coastal residents there were ordered to evacuate by 8:00 am Tuesday including from the Eastern Shore, another popular beachfront getaway destination.
"This storm is a monster", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. Farmers will be using the next several days to prepare for the storm, he said. The school said the decision came after discussions with West Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Conference and emergency management officials.
"It's going to be inconvenient but we don't want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", said Gov. Henry McMaster.
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