Louisiana first responders head to Carolinas ahead of Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane Monday afternoon

Hurricane and storm watches were issued for the entire coast of North Carolina on Tuesday morning and for parts of the SC coast including Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Wilmington.

Coastal North Carolina felt the first bite of Hurricane Florence on Thursday as winds began to rise, a prelude to the slow-moving tempest that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the USA southeast.

Florence, a Category 4 hurricane packing 130 miles per hour winds, is churning ominously with its sights set on the Carolinas.

North and SC and Virginia ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

Florence would be the strongest storm to make landfall anywhere on the East Coast since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit.

Crews also prepared 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region for the storm.

"The key really is this thing is going to be a huge storm when it threatens the coast and this is just something that doesn't happen every day when you see things lining up as they are", he continued. The affected area stretches from about North Brownsville to the Louisiana border, and potentially includes Houston, which is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. As much as 10 to 20 inches (250-500mm) of rain is forecast from the Carolinas into Virginia as the storm stalls inland.

"All the rainfall we're going to have, plus you talk about the wind - that means a lot of trees coming down, it's a lot of power outages, a lot of impacts with this system", NHC Director Ken Graham said Tuesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Florence was hurling 125-mph winds as a Category 3 hurricane.

So far this season, there have been nine named storms - five of them were hurricanes.

A new National Hurricane Center map predicting the likelihood of tropical storm-force winds stretches from northern Florida to eastern Kentucky and OH, and even up to the New York City area - although there's only a 5% to 10% chance of those conditions stretching that far north.

Florence is also expected to bring heavy flooding across the region.

Meteorologist Jon Cash tells CBN News that wherever Florence comes ashore, that area will likely be devastated, facing destructive winds and days of torrential rain.

Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and on its current path the eye of the storm will pass near Wilmington and the southern beach towns.

According to the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the first responders will be joined by a swift water rescue and urban search and rescue teams.

Nearby Jones County could see gusts in the 100 miles per hour range, while neighboring counties will be in the 60 to 95 miles per hour range, officials said.

With weather forecasters calling the storm "life threatening", Cooper said officials are watching three main issues - storm surge along the coastline, strong winds which could be heavier than any the state has experienced in recent years, and inland flooding and heavy rains.

A state of emergency has been declared in both North and SC.

President Donald Trump is canceling a campaign rally in advance of Hurricane Florence's landfall.

"This storm will produce a tremendous amount of rainfall over a broad area", said Porter, warning some projections are up to 32 inches by the end of the weekend. However, UCF's only open weekend is October 27, and North Carolina is playing an ACC game at Virginia that day.

But a weather formation known as a high-pressure ridge is parked over the U.S. East coast, preventing Florence from doing the normal turn, said University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy.

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