Hurricane Florence tracker: Storm may bring unprecedented flooding, historical rainfall

Boaters in Fort Myers Fla. just south of Tampa prepare for Hurricane Irma

Faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes.

Florence was about 550 miles off shore Wednesday morning and is expected to bring rain, wind and a massive storm surge to the Carolinas by Thursday.

The storm looked likely to make landfall on the coast of North and SC but heavy rain was also expected in Virginia to the north and Georgia to the south.

Communities along the Carolina coast buttoned up against the onslaught of Hurricane Florence as forecasters Wednesday warned that the monstrous storm could hesitate just offshore for days - punishing a longer stretch of coastline harder than previously feared - before pushing inland over the weekend.

It is predicted to deliver tropical-storm-force winds by noon Thursday to North Carolina's coast, and hurricane-force winds and unsafe storm surges by late Thursday or early Friday. "So Florence is kind of spreading out, becoming a much larger, more stable hurricane".

A steady stream of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland Tuesday, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone to flee.

Steering currents - around clear weather high-pressure systems and stormy low-pressure systems - redirect hurricanes, with the clear weather systems acting as walls that storms have to go around. The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore.

Mass evacuations in the Carolinas and Virginia are starting the clock ticking on business-interruption insurance policies, which help replace lost income for companies when natural disasters strike.

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Hurricane Florence likely to track over South Carolina, Cause Rain in Triad
Moreover, high tides around noon and midnight these next few days will make the storm surges even worse, Samson said. Crews board up the Oceanic restaurant in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina , in preparation for Hurricane Florence .

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A storm surge watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC, and for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border. "There's no canned goods", Kristin Harrington said as she shopped at a Walmart in Wilmington. Rather than pushing up toward western Virginia, the storm's center is now predicted to move across eastern SC on Friday night and Saturday.

"We have also touched base with our vendors to ensure we are stocked up and prepared should any delays or shortages occurs as a result" of the storm", she said.

Hurricane Florence is blowing sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour as it barrels toward the US's East Coast as a Category 4 storm.

"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. Additionally, the National Weather Service in Charleston said wind gusts of 74 miles per hour are possible in the area.

"He was thinking of coming here until this morning, and now he asked me if I wanted to come up there", he said. The governor added that a million or more people could be evacuated before the end of the storm. "Heed those warnings and evacuate if you're in one of the zones".

Hurricane Florence is at the doorstep of North and SC, and she's not going away anytime soon.

Swells generated by Florence are already affecting Bermuda and portions of the US East Coast.

Some areas are expected to see between 20 and 30 inches of rain through early next week in the area shaded in purple in the second image above.

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