MORE than a million people have been ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Florence barrels towards the 187 miles of the east coast of the US.
The storm has upgraded to a category 4 with winds up to 130mph and is expected to make landfall on Thursday at 7pm GMT (2pm local time).
A mandatory evacuation order will take effect on Tuesday and all major roads will have traffic directed away from the coast.
The governor of South Carolina Henry McMaster said: “This is a real hurricane we have coming.
“We don’t want to risk one South Carolina life.”
Governors from North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland have also declared emergencies in their state.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said: “We are in the bullseye. Let me be clear: North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously, and you should too.”
The last time a category 4 hurricane hit North Carolina was Hurricane Hazel in 1954.
AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss said Hurricane Florence could bring “life-threatening flooding”.
He said: “There’s never been a storm like Florence. It was located father north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we’re forecasting is unprecedented.
“Also, most storms coming into the Carolinas tend to move northward, and this storm looks like it’s going to stall over the region and potentially bring tremendous, life-threatening flooding.”
US President Donald Trump tweeted saying the government is on stand-by.
He said: “Just had calls with South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam regarding the incoming storm.
“Federal Government stands by, ready to assist 24/7.”
The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida issued a warning that Hurricane Florence is still growing in size and strength.
It’s most recent bulletin reads: “Florence is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
“Further strengthening is anticipated, and Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday.
“Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles.
“The bottom line is that there is high confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity.”
The state’s emergency management agency said it is “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster.”
In Charleston, South Carolina, along the coast, city officials offered sandbags to residents.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune urged people to secure their homes but said it’s too early to know if evacuations will be ordered.
Hardware stores and supermarkets were busy ringing up sales of bottled water, plywood and generators.
Ryan Deeck, grocery department manager at a Walmart, told The Sun News: “Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water.
“They’re coming in and buying water and plates, and that’s about all they’re buying.”
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Across the south east, people were urged to put together emergency supply kits, prepare their homes and research evacuation routes.
The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.
Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line re-routed its cruise ships.
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