Here’s what you need to know as Hurricane Florence approaches the US

William Tyrrell

The "probable" forecast path for Florence, a Category 4 hurricane, as of 5 a.m. Wednesday showed the storm shifting further toward the southern North Carolina coast and the northern half of the SC coast, with the forecast cone stretching into Georgia, western North Carolina and Tennessee, according to the National Hurricane Center.

"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd and Matthew", it said.

As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, the storm was centered 335 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 16 mph.

"It's possible it could be even higher than that depending on how quickly the storm moves to the coast, but we're kind of expecting it to slow down as it moves to the coast and would probably cut down the storm surge", AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski says. Catastrophic floods could follow if the storm stalls inland, it said.

In a video message on Twitter, President Trump added: "Hurricane Florence is fast approaching, it's going to be here in the next 48 hours and they say it is about as big as they have seen coming to this country and certainly to the east coast as they have ever said".

When it reaches the coastline, it could sit around for days, unloading life-threatening storm surge, risky winds and flooding rain.

Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.

"A storm with the track of Florence is unprecedented".

Communities could lose electricity for weeks, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said.

The National Weather Service initially predicted that South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia would be the states directly in the storm's path.

"We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan)", he tweeted.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte. "That means the more trees that could fall, the more power outages", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

"We're going to stay tight and check on everybody", he said.

A state of emergency being declared in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Its maximum sustained winds are expected to top 145 miles per hour before losing some steam near the coast. Cars and trucks full of people and belongings streamed inland. Allison Jones said she's not taking any chances.

Florence is the most unsafe of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.

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