More than 5.4 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches on the US East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, and another 4 million people were under a tropical storm watch. North Carolina has been hit by only one other Category 4 storm since reliable record keeping began in the 1850s.
North Carolina State postponed its home game against West Virginia University in Raleigh, North Carolina, adding that tickets will remain valid if the schools are able to reschedule the contest for later in the season.
Storm Surge: While the eye of Florence may make landfall along the south or middle of North Carolina's coast, the worst of the storm surge may occur further north, near the city of New Bern. "The threat will be inland, so I'm afraid, based on my experience at FEMA, that the public is probably not as prepared as everybody would like", said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"It does look a bit similar to Harvey in a sense that it goes roaring into shore and then comes to a screeching stop", said MIT meteorology professor and hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel.
A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington amid concern over potential torrential rain and flooding.
The storm is now about 950 miles from the Carolina coast line, but moving in that direction at about 15 mph.
The last Category 4 hurricane to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina and North of Duck, North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border.
"This is not a storm that people need to ride out", Cooper told reporters.
Officials have called for the mandatory evacuation of more than 1.4 million coastal residents across the Carolinas and Virginia. "I'm also concerned for people inland who may think they will not be impacted by this event".
Carrying winds of up to 140 miles per hour (220 kph) as a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Florence is expected to strengthen and become a Category 5 storm Tuesday.
Workers cover the windows of the historic Charleston County Courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, in preparation for the advancing Hurricane Florence, Sept. 11, 2018. Between the two cities, about two hours apart, the traffic flowed smoothly in places and became gridlocked in others because of fender-benders. American Airlines is also letting travelers in the Caribbean change tickets ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac. She said it was built in 2009 in Buxton, North Carolina, up on a ridge, and made to withstand a hurricane.
"You never know, there could be tree missiles coming from any direction", she said.
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