A hurricane hunter with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) flew into the category three Hurricane Florence and reported back Wednesday what he was seeing. The slow-moving storm, with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, is expected.
As of Tuesday, about 1.7 million people in North and SC and Virginia were under warnings to evacuate the coast, and hurricane watches and warnings extended across an area with about 5.4 million residents.
Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. "Protection of life is the absolute highest priority and that's what we are doing".
The local adult-services department and the Area Agency on Aging has been in touch with each senior facilities as well, county public information officer Kathryn Murphy said, and has helped them decide whether and how to plan for the hurricane.
Faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes.
Hurricane Florence has changed course, according to the latest weather models. North and SC and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week.
The storm's surge, the rise in sea water above normally dry land at the coast, could reach up to 13 feet at peak.
No storm watches or warnings are in effect for Georgia.
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5 photos of Hurricane Florence
Up to 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate across South Carolina , North Carolina and Virginia. As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
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In Wilmington, Solange Iliou Thompson closed down her restaurant, Indochine, because all of her employees had left the city.
"All my staff are gone", Thompson said.
"The preparation has been done and now it's up to mother nature as to what happens", he said.
"Everything is packed", Espinoza said.
"But I'm staying", she said. Will the winds be that strong or they'll be stronger when they get here than that?
Almost 1000 prisoners in SC will not be moved from their cells, despite a mandatory evacuation order in the area. But because Roper cares for extremely vulnerable patients, like those who just got out of heart or brain surgery, the facility applied for and received an exemption to the evacuation order because transporting the patients could be riskier than sheltering in place.
Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storms Joyce and Isaac are hovering over the Atlantic Ocean while Super Typhoon Mangkhut and Tropical Storm Barijat are lingering over the Pacific Ocean.
LATER NEXT WEEK: The remnants of Hurricane Florence could bring some heavy rain to the D.C. region by next week.