USA emergency officials have warned "time is running out" for people to escape from Hurricane Florence as outer bands of wind and rain began lashing North Carolina.
A high-definition video camera outside the space station captured stark and sobering views of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm.
Florence could slam the Carolinas harder than any hurricane since Hazel, which hit in 1954 with 130 miles per hour (209 kph) winds.
Tropical Storm Isaac was east of the Lesser Antilles and expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land. Rescue swimmers and other ground crew members will head straight to Raleigh, North Carolina, Macy said. Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) invoked a former boxing champion to warn residents that it would bring "a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast".
"Heed the warnings", said Byard, adding there was "well over $20 billion" in FEMA's disaster relief fund.
Coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and at least 510,000 homes and businesses were without power, almost all of them in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.
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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.
North and SC and Virginia ordered mass evacuations along the coast.
Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for week.
The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's center reaching the coast Friday.
To show the size and power of the storm, a number of photos taken Monday from the International Space Station and astronaut Ricky Arnold show Florence's girth as the storm churns across the Atlantic Ocean.
As of 11pm local time (4am BST), Florence was centred about 85 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5mph. While computer models have shifted the forecast track for the storm noticeably to the south and west, it doesn't mean the D.C. region and other parts of the mid-Atlantic states are in the clear. The state said it was seeing at least three times the normal traffic volume on I-26. The storm will make landfall at the Carolinas Friday. "It's going to happen".
People flee as 'catastrophic' Hurricane Florence sweeps towards America
The Category 4 storm is likely to produce "catastrophic" flooding in the eastern Carolinas, as well as destructive winds. Keep in mind that the storm is just now coming ashore, and the winds and waves will get worse as the hours go on.
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.
Officials in New Hanover County, which includes Wilmington, have stockpiled enough food and water for 60,000 people for four days, along with more than 28,000 tarps.
He urged people in the coastal Carolinas and living near inland rivers to evacuate.
Michelle Stober loaded up valuables at her home on Wrightsville Beach to drive back to her primary residence in Cary, North Carolina.
The cone of probability for Hurricane Florence at 5 a.m. EDT, Sept. 14, 2018. "People are taking down awnings and U-Haul trucks have come in and take the entire contents of stores".
"A lot of our storefronts are boarded up", said Lynn Davis, town manager for Belhaven which sits at sea level in northeastern North Carolina.
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Glenn McNeill with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said troopers are on standby statewide to assist where needed. In Carolina Beach, an island community off the coast of Wilmington, 75 percent of residents have already left town.