Coastal residents fleeing a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence encountered empty gasoline pumps and depleted store shelves as the monster storm neared the Carolina coast on Wednesday.
As of 11 a.m., the Category 4 storm was centred 485 miles (785 kilometres) southeast of Wilmington, moving at 15 mph (24 kph) with the potential for 1 to 3 feet of rain in places - enough to touch off catastrophic flooding and an environmental disaster, too, if the water inundates the region's many industrial waste sites and hog manure ponds. But authorities warned it will still be an extremely unsafe hurricane.
"We will experience power outages, we will have infrastructure damage, there will be homes damaged, there will be debris on the roads - this will be a storm that creates and causes massive damage to our country", announced Jeffrey Byard, Response and Recovery administrator for FEMA.
"Don't play games with it".
"We've seen nor'easters and we've seen hurricanes before", Cooper said, "but this one is different".
While Hurricane Florence has sparked state of emergency and mass evacuation, a very unfortunate weather graphic has managed to put a smile on those preparing for the storm.
Though Florence won't be making landfall until Friday, tropical-storm-force winds - 39 to 73 miles per hour (63 to 117 km/h) - will begin whipping through coastal regions as early as tomorrow, making it exceptionally risky to be outside, Graham said.
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People weren't the only ones evacuating to get out of the path of Hurricane Florence.
As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.
Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave.
Computer models of exactly what the storm might do varied, adding to the uncertainty.
Updated forecasts from the NHC show the storm lingering near the coast of the Carolinas, packed with days of torrential rain that could trigger huge inland flooding from SC to Virginia. And if local officials recommend evacuation, evacuate immediately.
In a news release Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal says the state "is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence".
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The shift in the projected track spread concern to areas that once thought they were relatively safe. Shelters in the city were filling and some people were being bused inland to Raleigh, even though some residents there were told they might have to evacuate because of flooding.
"We've had our lessons".
"Today is the time to get your preparedness actions complete", he said.
CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reports that people living in the barrier island community of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, are bracing for a possible direct impact. "We just need to figure out how to make it through". "There's no canned goods", Kristin Harrington said as she shopped at a Walmart in Wilmington.
Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.
Data collected during the flight allows the NOAA to keep a watchful eye on the most powerful storm to date in the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, to research its speed, intensity and structure.
Life-threatening storm surges of up to 3.9 metres were also forecast in some areas of North Carolina along with the possibility of tornadoes. Most other beachgoers were long gone.
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"Everyone who is staying here is either a real old-timer, someone who doesn't know where would be better, or someone involved in emergency operations one way or another", said Fox.