The southeastern coast of the U.S.is preparing for a potentially historic hurricane to make landfall later this week.
More than a million people are expected to flee low-lying areas, as SC and Virginia ordered mandatory evacuations of coastal areas starting on Tuesday.
The 1st effects were already being seen on barrier islands Monday as unsafe rip currents and seawater flowed over the state highway.
Authorities also warned of life-threatening coastal storm surges and the potential for Florence to unleash prolonged torrential rains and widespread flooding across several states, especially if it lingers inland for several days.
The storm's potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.
As for a hit on the US mainland, the most recent Cat 4 at landfall was Hurricane Harvey previous year, which hit Texas with winds of 130 miles per hour.
NHC Director Ken Graham also warned of "staggering" amounts of rainfall that may extend hundreds of miles inland and cause flash flooding across the mid-Atlantic region.
"While it is too soon to determine the exact timing, location and magnitude of these impacts, interest at the coast and inland from SC into the mid-Atlantic region should closely monitor the progress of Florence", said a NOAA statement.
Kevin Orth loads sandbags into cars on Milford Street as he helps residents prepare for Hurricane Florence on Monday in Charleston, S.C. Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the USA coast in the later half of this week, possibly as early as Wednesday evening.
Helene, meanwhile, was still in the Atlantic's spawning ground for hurricanes off the coast of Africa, swirling with 105 mph (165 kmh) winds and forecast to become a major hurricane, about 375 miles (600 kilometers) west of the Cape Verde islands.
Florence was producing large swells expected to reach from the northern Caribbean to the southern coasts of Canada's maritime provinces.
The wind is a secondary concern, given that storms generally weaken quickly once they make landfall, and the main circulation of Florence is expected to stay south of the D.C. area, Pallozzi says.
North Carolina's governor declared a state of emergency on Sunday, one day after SC.
American Airlines has issued a travel waiver for passengers using 23 airports located in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia, including the hub of Charlotte, for those travelling between 10 and 19 September. And Virginia's governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas.
Schools in 26 of the state's 46 counties were to close from Tuesday.
A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 85 degrees (30 Celsius), he wrote.
US President Donald Trump said the "storm looks very bad" and urged people to take precautions.
What else should I know?
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered as many as one million residents of the state's eastern coast to leave their homes ahead of the storm's possible arrival on Thursday.
It's now at a Category 4.
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