Streams of cars clogged roads leading away from the coast of North and SC on Tuesday as residents began fleeing ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence, a powerful Category 4 storm barreling towards the eastern USA states.
The hurricane is forecast to dump 1ft to 2ft 6in of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and farms. As the storm encounters the highlands of North Carolina and Virginia, it will likely increase its rate of precipitation.
"I don't want to be an alarmist, but as we look at storms of the past, there are parts of what we see in Florence that could fall out that way", Barnes said.
Expected to gather force later Tuesday, Florence may cause "life-threatening" storm surge in coastal parts of North and SC, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory Tuesday.
He said some models predict as much as 30-40 inches of rain for some areas due to the storm surge and heavy rain. "Don't bet your life on riding out a monster".
At 11pm Tuesday local time, the storm was centred 1,075km southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 28kph.
To speed up evacuations from coastal SC, officials reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so all major roads led away from shore.
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But his partner, Emily Whisler, said she will remain behind at the university where she is a resident in the psychiatry program.
Some of Pahl's neighbors were talking about evacuating the island, which is reachable only by ferry and plane, but he had not yet made up his mind.
The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet (2.75 metres) of water in spots, projections showed.
The storm strengthened from 130 miles per hour to 140 miles per hour and is Category 4, the NHC said. Hurricane force winds extend 40 miles from Florence's eye and tropical storm force winds extend 150 miles.
As Hurricane Florence churned toward an eventual Eastern Seaboard landfall, more than 1 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes along the USA south-east coast on Tuesday.
"We are already experiencing heavily impacted traffic on some of the evacuation routes", said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Utilities deployed crews and gear in advance, with workers en route to the region from at least 15 states, according to trade group, the Edison Electric Institute.
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One power station, Duke Energy Corp's Brunswick plant, the closest to the area where landfall is forecast, faced a likely shutdown as a precaution.
The American Red Cross said more than 700 workers were headed to the target area while shelters were set up to take in those who could not evacuate.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said the emergency was "effective immediately" and "ensures that we will have the resources we need to prepare".
The United States was hit with a series of high-powered hurricanes past year, including Hurricane Maria, which killed some 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Harvey, which killed about 68 people and caused an estimated $1.25 billion in damage with catastrophic flooding in Houston.
Residents in North Carolina prepared by boarding up their homes and stocking up on food, water and other essentials, stripping supermarket shelves of merchandise.
"We're as ready as anybody has ever been", the president added. It also could cause significant flooding farther inland, where bases such as the Army's Fort Bragg, N.C., are hubs of operations and home to tens of thousands of service members.
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