Hurricane Florence's heavy rains could cause an environmental disaster in North Carolina, where waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites could wash into homes and threaten drinking water supplies. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES weather satellites are providing some spectacular views of the group storms from space.
"The atmosphere overall, before the potential landfall, certainly looks like we are going to have a very unsafe hurricane on our hands", he said. "This is a storm that is historic, maybe once in a lifetime".
The storm is expected to make landfall in North and SC in the next few days, with winds of up to 220 kilometres an hour. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and SC, carrying winds up to 140 miles per hour (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.
The eye of the storm was about 575 miles miles southeast of Cape Fear, N.C., and moving west-northwest at 17 mph Wednesday with recorded maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, the NHC said. But, it's the water, not the wind, that has the potential to make the storm so deadly, experts say.
Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.
Needham said the size of the storm will also play a big role.
Hurricane Camille formed in the Gulf of Mexico and hit MS as a Category 5 storm.
Hurricane Florence may be the strongest storm ever to make landfall north of Florida if predictions hold.
It's going to hit our coast; it's going to stay on our coast.
President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, and 1.7 million people have been warned to leave.
ABC News Rainfall could be as much as 40 inches locally along the North Carolina coast
Crews also prepared 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region for the storm.
South Carolina's Governor Henry McMaster gave the entire coastline of his state until noon on Tuesday to leave.
"They told me to bring a pillow and blanket", Whisler said. "The preparations for a hurricane began long before the past few hours or days".
Charleston, resident William Belli said he would not be among those joining the exodus. The humidity and warm ocean water cause the storms to gain enough intensity to turn into hurricanes. "Not anxious in the least".
Normally, when hurricanes get above 30 degrees North in latitude, they get pulled poleward by the westerly pattern in the atmosphere between the tropics and poles.
"I have determined the safest course of action is to evacuate", said Brig. Coastal areas in both Carolinas have taken steps to evacuate residents and tourists, including a mandatory evacuation in SC.
In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate including from the Eastern Shore, another popular beachfront destination.
Hurricanes produce three major kinds of threats: storm surge, damaging winds, and inland flooding from rainfall.
Florence is a strong Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour as of Tuesday evening.
"Emergency management resources are expected to be fully utilized and needed throughout the region, and today's decision will help give ample time to deploy those resources across the state", NC State said. On Tuesday, the Army also tweeted that FEMA had begun setting up trailers at Fort Bragg.
"The South Carolina National Guard is on the frontline of support", said U.S. Army Maj.
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