Time is running short to flee Hurricane Florence, a monster of a storm zeroing in on the Southeastern coast with more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights.
"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast", the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote in its Tuesday evening area forecast discussion, adding in a Wednesday report that flooding in southeast North Carolina and northeast SC could be "unprecedented". According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's prediction, all of coastal North Carolina is at "high" risk of flash flooding, with "moderate" risk, even 30-50 miles inland.
A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe, while a tropical storm watch had gone into effect for Antigua, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Martin and St. Maarten.
Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding.
"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
We started the day in Raleigh, North Carolina, where we met Gov. Roy Cooper at the state's emergency operations center.
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
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 weeks.
Computer simulations - especially the often star-performing European model - push the storm further south, even into SC and Georgia.
Had Invest 95L reached tropical storm force before the storm in the Atlantic did on Wednesday, it would have taken the name Joyce.
More than 300,000 people have already evacuated from the coast, McMaster said, and traffic on the highway was moving steadily on Wednesday.
"We could maybe get some outer bands or very, very outer bands of the hurricane", said Jeremy Geiger, a weather service meteorologist. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said. The storm will most likely strike the coast of North Carolina or SC by late Thursday.
First responders around the country are making their way to Wrightsville Beach. A NOAA buoy located about 100 miles northeast of Florence's eye recently reported a sustained wind of 53 mph (85 km/h) and a gust to 74 mph (119 km/h).
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