Heavy rain, wind gusts and rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence swamped the Carolinas early on Friday as the massive storm crawled toward the coast, threatening millions of people in its path with record rainfall and punishing surf. "Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", he said.
Georgia joined North and South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in issuing an emergency declaration as forecasts showed Florence dumping historic amounts of rain - potentially 37 trillion litres - on the southern states.
Following Hurricane Florence are two more powerful storms crossing the Atlantic, namely Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 metres) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 metres) of rain, touching off severe flooding.
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico past year.
CMS also stated Florence was a powerful and unsafe storm predicted to have "catastrophic impacts in the Carolinas".
The National Hurricane Center warned the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rains could trigger landslides in the western part of his state.
"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico", Trump said on Twitter.
More than 1,400 flights have been cancelled, according to FlightAware.com, with most of the coastal region's airports closed.
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He said the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of the state-activated National Guard troops.
"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse.
Isha Renta, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Baltimore/Washington forecast office, said while the forecast may look humdrum for the region, "we can not discount" the storm.
The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's center reaching the coast Friday.
Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.
Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.
"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face".
A zoomed in image of the eye of Hurricane Florence. "Well, we're about to get punched in the face".
"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate", Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said.