Search-and-rescue team from Maryland heads to SC before storm

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The alerts also mean unsafe storm surges are likely along the coast and heavy, sustained rains could cause life-threatening flooding inland, the National Hurricane Center warned.

Early Wednesday morning, Hurricane Florence was less than 600 miles away from the North Carolina coast moving quickly to the west/northwest at nearly 20 mph.

In this region, the current storm of anyone's lifetime is 1989's Hurricane Hugo - with winds of 140 miles per hour, it was the most powerful hurricane to hit land north of Florida since weather records began in 1851.

Hurricane Florence put a corridor of more than 10 million people in the crosshairs Wednesday as the monster storm closed in on the Carolinas, uncertainty over its projected path spreading worry across a widening swath of the Southeast.

Hurricane-force winds will reach the Carolina coasts late Thursday or early Friday. "The threat will be inland, so I'm afraid, based on my experience at FEMA, that the public probably not as prepared as everybody would like", said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "You're going to be displaced from your home in coastal areas".

After making landfall this Friday (Sept. 14), the massive storm will now "wobble" southward and then head west, making a "big, grand tour" of the southeastern United States, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) meteorologist Kevin Scasny said in a statement released today (Sept. 12).

Incredible time-lapse footage filmed from a hurricane-hunting plane shows what's it's like to fly through the eye of Florence, the storm that's already forced more than 1 million people to evacuate. The Virginia National Guard is planning to initially bring up to 1,500 soldiers and airmen to offer help in the state's response operations.

Savage, soaking Hurricane Florence nears Carolina coast

While many coastal residents heeded mandatory evacuation orders, others boarded up homes and businesses and chose to courageous the storm, which is forecast to trigger severe flash flooding as it dumps as many as three feet (almost a meter) of rain in some areas. Current forecasts call for Florence to be at least a Category 3 storm when it arrives at the Carolinas.

"I'm not approaching Florence from fear or panic", said Brad Corpening, 35, who planned to ride out the storm in his boarded-up delicatessen in Wilmington.

One woman told MSNBC she would be staying at home in Wilmington, NC with her two children despite the storm.

Even miles away from the Atlantic, North Carolina residents in low-lying areas are boarding up and emptying stores.

Aside from that mammoth coastal flooding, Florence will likely inundate cities far inland as well.

"All interests from SC into the Mid-Atlantic region should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials", the Hurricane Center said. While it may or may not officially become a Category 5 storm, it will still be a major Hurricane at landfall. As it turns into southern SC.

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