Most other beachgoers were long done.
Isaac Ginis, a hurricane expert at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, said that with rising temperatures, hurricanes are likely to become more intense, bring more rain and pose more risks to coastal areas from higher seas and bigger storm surges and waves.
'I can't emphasise enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm'. But a computer simulation known as the European model predicts some places could get 45 inches.
Downpours and flooding would be especially severe, lasting for days, if the storm stalls over land.
"It does look a bit similar to Harvey in a sense that it goes roaring into shore and then comes to a screeching stop", said MIT meteorology professor and hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel. "This is not a pretty sight".
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The origins of Florence are unusual, too.
Sentara Healthcare Residents from Sentara's Health Center in Currituck, North Carolina, arrive by bus at a larger Sentara facility in Portsmouth, Virginia, away from the storm's path.
From the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready for Hurricane Florence in this photo posted to Twitter on September 12, 2018: "This is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".
Almost 1000 prisoners in SC will not be moved from their cells, despite a mandatory evacuation order in the area. But one thing it might actually help is to reduce the overall wind speed, though we're still going to have gusty winds around here which combined with that wet soil could bring down some trees.
On its current track, Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest, the NHC said.
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Wilmington, North Carolina, just north of where the hurricane is expected to come ashore, was sunny around midday on Wednesday as the town appeared to be emptying.
The ocean waters that Florence is travelling over are about 2.7 degrees (1.5 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal, McNoldy said.
Florence is being trailed in the Atlantic by two other storms - Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac.
In Houston, 20 elderly residents had to be rescued from waist-deep water in their nursing home after Hurricane Harvey dumped record amounts of rain on the region.
The "once-in-a-lifetime" storm was due to hit the coast of the southeastern USA tomorrow, bringing winds of up to 130mph and causing a sea surge of as much as 13 feet.
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