‘Storm of lifetime’: Hurricane Florence barrels toward Carolinas as residents flee

Crews board up the Oceanic restaurant in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, in preparation for Hurricane Florence.

Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and the National Hurricane Center fears the storm "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and unsafe rainfall event Friday-Sunday".

Carolinians are smart to be wary of Hurricane Florence's impact on gas, after Hurricane Katrina cut supply lines from the Gulf Coast in 2005, leading to widespread shortages and consumer panic.

This remarkable satellite image shows Hurricane Florence is one of just nine potentially risky storms now circling around the world.

Up to 1.7 million people are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and coastal residents were frantically boarding up homes and businesses and hitting the road on Wednesday as the storm approached.

"We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able, we've got the finest people I think anywhere in the world".

"The safety of the American people is my absolute highest priority".

In its 5 p.m. advisory on Tuesday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said that the eye of Florence was located 580 km south-southwest of Bermuda and 1,260 km east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the NHC said.

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Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet were also forecast in some areas along with the possibility of tornadoes in North Carolina.

"In collaboration with state emergency agencies and the Georgia Hospital Association, we are monitoring bed counts daily so that we can quickly and accurately assist with any necessary evacuations", said Sydney Walker, spokesperson for Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center. "This is not going to be a glancing blow", Byard explained.

Barish writes that overall, casual dining restaurants are more likely to take a hit from Florence than quick-serve restaurants, but restaurants in general could get a bit of a boost on a same-store-sales basis.

A total of 15-20 inches of rain is expected, with isolated areas of up to 30 inches in parts of North Carolina, Virginia and the northern part of SC through Saturday.

"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence", said Deal on the state government's website.

The "cone of error" in the forecast track only predicts where the storm's center might go, and even on its edges, winds can push a powerful storm surge into shore dozens of miles from where Florence's eyewall strikes land.

Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.

The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 3 metres of water in spots, projections showed. "There's nobody left to work".

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