"Heed the warnings", said Byard, adding there was "well over $20 billion" in FEMA's disaster relief fund. "We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge".
As of 11 a.m., the potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm was centered 485 miles (785 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, moving at 15 mph (24 kph) with winds of 130 mph (215 kph) and enough moisture to dump feet of rain on the region. "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".
"It's all going to be predicated on where the damage is at, in terms of how and where we deploy our resources", said Penn.
Hurricane Florence is predicted to creep across the coast from North Carolina to SC, drenching a wide area after making landfall late Thursday or early Friday. Rainfalls up to 40 inches (102 centimeters) in some places are expected in a region ranging from coastal North Carolina to northeastern SC, with flash flooding likely, according to the NHC.
Florence's eye could come ashore early Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.
About 300,000 people have been evacuated from South Carolina, McMaster said. But because the storm was so large it produced a destructive storm surge in New York City, and caused an estimated $65 billion in damage in the United States.
The storm's possible track now bends farther to the SW and closer to cities like Jacksonville, but it's the delay and the possible repeat of a Harvey-like storm cycle that has officials and weather forecasters anxious.
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About 10 million people live in areas that were under either hurricane or tropical storm warnings and watches Thursday. "We will not be able to respond to you when the winds get so high". On top of that, a disastrous amount of rain - 500mm, possibly even as much as 1m - is expected to fall. Then it dropped to an extratropical cyclone - but with hurricane-force winds akin to a low Category 1 hurricane - before making landfall in New Jersey.
Kourounis and Robinson have seen their share of hurricanes, many of them together.
Ten years ago today, Hurricane Ike made landfall as "only" a Category 2 hurricane along Galveston Island near Houston.
Cooper and his SC counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been directed to leave that if they don't do so, they are on their own.
Hurricane Florence carries a heavy risk of flash floods as it brings up to 13-foot storm surge and a possible 40 inches of rain to the Carolina coast. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
As it turns into southern SC. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads.
More than 1 million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia and thousands have moved to emergency shelters. "Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks".