(RNN) – People along the Carolinas coastline are bracing for a major hurricane heading their way later this week, and more than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate.
The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center says Florence is becoming better organized and increasing in size.
Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday joined the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in declaring states of emergency.
Evacuation orders for low-lying areas were issued Monday and continued Tuesday. Many major roads and arteries have reversed traffic flow to help those evacuate quickly.
Located about 845 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, NC, Hurricane Florence was packing maximum-sustained winds of 130 mph and moving to the west-northwest at 17 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported.
Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 60 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 170 miles from the center of the storm.
Florence could be the most powerful storm to hit the Carolinas since Hurricane Hazel in 1954, which came ashore at the border with North and South Carolina, killing 19 people in North Carolina and causing catastrophic damage along the coast.
A storm surge watch was issued Tuesday morning from Edisto Beach, SC, to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including Albemarle and Palmico sounds. A hurricane watch was issued for the same areas.
Watches are issued 48 hours before the first expected occurrence of weather events. As the storm nears shore, those watches will become warnings.
Expected to make landfall by early morning Friday, most likely along the coast of North Carolina, the impact of the Category 4 storm will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, dangerous surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.
Florence will bring large rainfall totals through Saturday in North Carolina, north South Carolina and Virginia, from 15 to 20 inches, with isolated spots that may receive 30 inches, causing life-threatening flash flooding.
The impact on storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm’s arrival coincides with high tide.
Areas along the coast from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, NC, including The Neuse and Pamlico River, may experience storm surge from 6 to 12 feet.
Other areas facing a surge include:
- Cape Lookout to Ocracoke Inlet, NC, 5 to 8 feet
- Murrells Inlet, SC, to Cape Fear, NC, 4 to 6 feet
- Ocracoke Inlet to North Carolina/Virginia Border, 3 to 5 feet
- Edisto Beach, SC to Murrells Inlet, 2 to 4 feet
A number of major airlines issued travel advisories for areas expected to be hit by Florence, including American, Delta, Southwest, Spirit and United, CNN reported.
Forecasters expect the storm to linger over the Carolinas once it makes landfall, dumping rain, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham told the Associated Press.
The hurricane will also bring large swells to the U.S. coast and Bermuda.
The Atlantic and Pacific basin has become very active recently, with the weather map dotted with tropical disturbances.
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