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    Reports: Officials warn that time is running out to evacuate as perilous Hurricane Florence creeps closer to US

    By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
    September 12, 2018, 5:17:50 PM EDT

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    Residents in the eastern United States are bracing for Florence as it barrels toward the region, posing a serious threat to lives and property.

    A state of emergency has been declared in five states — South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland, as well as Washington, D.C., — to help people prepare for the hurricane.

    “There’s never been a storm like Florence. It was located farther north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we’re forecasting is unprecedented," AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss said.

    (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

    High winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C.,Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

    Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

    A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018.

    (Photo/NASA Astronaut Ricky Arnold)

    Hurricane Florence as seen from the International Space Station on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Fishermen launch a boat as they attempt to recover their haul-seine fishing net, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in Virginia Beach, Va., as Hurricane Florence moves towards the eastern shore.

    (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

    Sand bags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast.

    (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    A gas station in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, alerts motorists that it is out of gas due to the heavy demand caused by Hurricane Florence Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    Preston Guiher carries a sheet of plywood as he prepares to board up a Wells Fargo bank in preparation for Hurricane Florence in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, Sept. 11, 2018.

    (Instagram photo/@kellybinderim)

    There is no traffic on eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 in South Carolina from Columbia to Charleston as evacuees are directed away from the coast ahead of Florence's arrival.

    (Twitter photo/Sarah Shinners)

    Vehicles line up at a Costco gas station in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on Sept. 10, 2018, to fuel up before Hurricane Florence's arrival on the East Coast.

    (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    Walker Townsend (right), from Isle of Palms, South Carolina, fills a sandbag held by Dalton Trout, in a municipal parking lot where sand is distributed free of charge in preparation for Hurricane Florence's arrival.

    (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    Police cars block the Ashley Phosphate Road exit ramp off Interstate 26 in North Charleston, South Carolina, as both sides of the highway flow westbound toward Columbia, South Carolina, on Sept. 11, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    Larry Pierson, from the Isle of Palms, South Carolina, purchases bottled water from the Harris Teeter grocery store in preparation for Hurricane Florence on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.

    (Instagram photo/@trendingtasha)

    Shelves are bare at a Walmart in Wake Forest, North Carolina, on Sept. 10, 2018, as residents stock up on water and supplies before Florence arrives.

    (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    Residents of the Isle of Palms, South Carolina, fill sand bags at the Isle of Palms municipal lot, where the city was giving away free sand in preparation for Hurricane Florence on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.

    (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/U.S. Navy via AP)

    In this Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, photo released by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze departs Naval Station Norfolk after the announcement of Hurricane Florence, in Norfolk, Virginia.

    (Image via Erin McNeill)

    The Oceanic restaurant boarded up in preparation of Florence in Wrightsville Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina.

    (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    Laura Gretch, Humane Rescue Alliance transport manager, holds an 8-year-old Chihuahua mix as she helps unload 26 cats and dogs arriving in Washington on Tuesday Sept. 11, 2018, from Norfolk Animal Care and Control in Virginia in advance of Florence.

    (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

    An onlooker checks out the heavy surf at the Avalon Fishing Pier in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast.

    (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    Korea war veteran Ed Coddington and wife Esther wait with Markia McCleod, her aunt and daughter in a shelter for Hurricane Florence to pass after evacuating from their nearby homes in Conway, South Carolina, on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

    Heavy surf crashes the dunes at high tide in Nags Head, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast.

    (Image via Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer)

    Drone footage above Topsail Beach, NC approaching high tide ahead of Hurricane Florence.

    (Image via Brunswick County Sheriff's Office)

    Bay Street area in Southport, North Carolina flooding before Florence makes landfall.

    (Image via Brunswick County Sheriff's Office)

    Bay Street in Southport, North Carolina flooding as Florence approaches.

    (Image via Brunswick County Sheriff's Office)

    Bay Street in Southport, North Carolina turning into a river. While this area collects water at high tide everyday, the water will rise more during Florence.

    (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bret Tindal)

    Petty Officer 1st Class Mike McHuge from the Coast Guard Gulf Strike Team checks the outboard engine of one of the Shallow Water Urban Search and Rescue boats staged in Augusta, Georgia, Sept. 13, 2018.

    (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bret Tindal)

    Coast Guard crews from across the U.S. are strategically relocating personnel and assets for the Hurricane Florence post-storm response.

    (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bret Tindal)

    Petty Officer 1st Class Jack Fielden from the Coast Guard Gulf Strike Team checks the outboard engine of one of the Shallow Water Urban Search and Rescue boats.

    (Image via the Virginia National Guard)

    Soldiers assigned to the 2-183rd CAV pulled out their combat rubber raiding crafts today to conduct pre-mission checks in advance of #HurricaneFlorence. These Soldiers are among more than 1,300 Virginia National Guard personnel staged for possible hurricane response.

    (Image via FEMA Region 4)

    Urban search and rescue teams begin unloading equipment in North Carolina in preparation for Hurricane Florence.

    (Image via FEMA Region 4)

    Urban search and rescue teams begin unloading equipment in North Carolina in preparation for Hurricane Florence.

    (Image via FEMA Region 4)

    Urban search and rescue teams begin unloading equipment in North Carolina in preparation for Hurricane Florence.

    (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Kelly McGuire walks her dogs Jack and Roxy on a mostly deserted oceanfront beach, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, in Virginia Beach, Va., as the effects of Hurricane Florence are felt.

    (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

    Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018.

    (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    A message greets shoppers of supplies no longer available as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast in Nichols, S.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. The residents of this tiny inland town who rebuilt after Hurricane Matthew destroyed 90 percent of the homes are uneasy as forecasters warn inland flooding from Florence's rain could be one of the most dangerous and devastating parts of the storm.

    (Mike Scantlin)

    Hurricane Florence impacts Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

    (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

    People survey the damage caused by Hurricane Florence on Front Street in downtown New Bern, N.C., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

    Debris from Hurricane Florence covers a street in downtown New Bern, N.C., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

    A tree uprooted by strong winds lies across a street in Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

    (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

    Ethan Hall, right, Michael Jenkins, center, and Nash Fralick, left, examine damage to Tidewater Brewing Co. in Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.


    Evacuations began on Tuesday morning as people living near the coasts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia fled inland. Traffic patterns were altered to help speed up evacuation efforts, including lane reversals on several major roads in South Carolina.

    Residents in the path of the storm have been stocking up for days, leading to long lines at gas stations and empty shelves at grocery stores all across the region. Some gas stations have already run out of fuel.

    Download the free AccuWeather app to stay up to date with Florence’s expected track and impacts to the eastern U.S. coast.

    RELATED:
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    Incredible view of inside the eye of Hurricane Florence
    Destructive Hurricane Florence to batter the Carolinas for days
    Florence forces postponement of several college football week 3 games in southeastern US


    3:23 p.m. EDT Wednesday:

    Duke Energy estimated that power outages could be between 1 to 3 million customers in the Carolinas from approaching Hurricane Florence.

    More than 20,000 people are in place to restore power, which will be the largest resource mobilization ever for Duke Energy.

    More than 8,000 Carolinas-based workers are being joined by 1,700 workers from Duke Energy Midwest and 1,200 from Duke Energy Florida to respond to this storm. An additional 9,400 resources will be coming from other utilities to help.



    2 p.m. EDT Wednesday:

    Hurricane Florence is now a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. Despite weakening slightly, the storm remains extremely dangerous as it tracks closer to the East Coast.

    The storm is about 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

    A NOAA buoy located about 100 miles northeast of Florence's eye recently reported a sustained wind of 53 mph (85 km/h) and a gust to 74 mph (119 km/h), the NHC stated.

    AccuWeather meteorologists believe that the hurricane will stall and meander near the Carolina coast from Thursday night to Saturday.

    As this happens, coastal areas will be bombarded with torrential rain, high winds, coastal erosion and storm surge, not for a few hours, but possibly for a couple of days, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

    Florence eye

    This is what the eye of Hurricane Florence looked like on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Alexander Gerst, an astronaut on the International Space Station, took the photo.


    1:20 p.m. EDT Wednesday:

    The runways at Charleston International Airport will close at 11:59 p.m. EDT Wednesday and are not expected to reopen until Friday at the earliest.

    "Rapidly changing conditions associated with the path of Hurricane Florence will affect general aviation and commercial air service operations at Charleston International Airport at least through Friday," airport officials said in a statement.

    The exact time the runways are reopened depends on the storm's path and impact on the area, according to Paul Campbell, CEO and executive director of the Charleston County Aviation Authority.

    “The safety of our passengers and airport employees is our no. 1 priority. We cannot safely continue flight operations without crash, fire and rescue services available,” Campbell said. “The runways will reopen when the Air Force determines it is safe, and that depends on the impact Hurricane Florence has on the area.”

    The Air Force owns the two runways at the airport.


    12:47 p.m. EDT Wednesday:

    Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a statewide state of emergency. Georgia is the fifth state to institute a state of emergency ahead of Florence's impending arrival.

    The declaration came on the recommendation of Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS) officials.

    “The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence,” said Deal. “In light of the storm’s forecasted southward track after making landfall, I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas. GEMA/HS continues to lead our preparedness efforts as we coordinate with federal, state and local officials to provide public shelter and accommodate those evacuating from other states. Finally, I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence.”


    11:12 a.m. EDT Wednesday

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is deploying members of the New York Air National Guard to assist in response to Hurricane Florence.


    The mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, John Tecklenberg, is urging any residents who haven't evacuated the city yet to do so immediately.


    Over 37,000 sandbags have been given out in Charleston. City officials also announced that residents could park their cars for free in city parking garages.


    10:10 a.m. EDT Wednesday:

    AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer is stationed in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, covering the ongoing evacuations.

    Morehead City, Florence

    Russell Meadows, left, helps neighbor Rob Muller board up his home ahead of Hurricane Florence in Morehead City, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)


    8:15 a.m. EDT Wednesday:

    In its 8 a.m. EDT advisory, the National Hurricane Center says that Florence remains a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph.

    Florence is located about 530 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina. An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft is currently investigating the hurricane.



    7:22 a.m. EDT Wednesday:

    President Donald Trump is urging Americans in the path of Florence to heed evacuation orders and to listen to their local representatives.


    3 a.m. EDT Wednesday:

    Hurricane and storm surge warnings are now in effect for a large swath of the Eastern Seaboard, stretching through eastern South and North Carolina as well as into far southeastern Virginia. Residents are urged to prepare for catastrophic damage from wind and storm surge.

    Fuel shortages are increasing across the Carolinas as residents prepare to evacuate, draining local gas stations' supplies.

    Anti-price-gouging laws are now in effect in North Carolina and South Carolina; anyone witnessing exorbitant prices on gas, lodging or food along evacuation routes can complain to the attorney general's office, according to NPR.

    AP image gas shortage 9/12

    A gas station in Mt. Pleasant S.C. alerts motorist that it is out of gas due to the heavy demand caused by Hurricane Florence Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)


    Another growing concern associated with Florence involves the many open-air hog farm "lagoons" scattered throughout eastern North Carolina.

    While farmers are doing all they can to prepare for feet of incoming rainfall, there is a chance that barriers could fail, allowing the manure-filled lagoons to overflow into nearby rivers and streams. These farms have survived previous storms without incident, but the farmers understand that each storm is unique.

    "We try to pump down as much as we can, but after that, it's kind of in God's hands. We're kind of at the mercy of the storm," Marlowe Vaughan of Ivy Spring Creek Farm in Goldsboro, North Carolina, said to NPR.


    8:06 p.m. EDT Tuesday:

    Conditions will begin to deteriorate on Wednesday night; final preparations should be underway or completed by now.

    Gas stations are on the brink of running out of fuel in Wilmington, North Carolina. Stores are running extremely low on necessities such as food and water.


    Prisons in some areas of North Carolina are evacuating staff and offenders to other state facilities due to Hurricane Florence. Offenders will be given a free call to families this weekend.


    6:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday:

    Wilmington International Airport is still open for those considering leaving the area by air.

    Deputy Director Gary Broughton said the runways will stay open pending notification from airlines. Thus far, American Airlines has announced its 8:17 p.m. EDT Wednesday departure will be its last before the storm.

    The airport recommends contacting airlines directly for the most up-to-date information.



    3:55 p.m. EDT Tuesday:

    Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long is anticipating that some areas will be without power for weeks following Hurricane Florence.


    Crews in North Carolina are preparing for the anticipated flooding by cleaning out storm drains and ditches where floodwaters typically flow.

    AccuWeather meteorologists are predicting catastrophic flooding across North Carolina and parts of Virginia due to significant rainfall from Florence with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 40 inches.



    3:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday:

    President Donald Trump has approved the emergency declaration in Virginia due to anticipated impacts from Hurricane Florence.

    Virginia is the third state to have an emergency declaration approved by the president, following North Carolina and South Carolina.



    12:55 p.m. EDT Tuesday:

    North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has issued mandatory evacuations for the state’s Barrier Islands ahead of Hurricane Florence.

    "Don't wait until it is too late. It could put your lives and lives of emergency responders in danger," Cooper said.


    Meanwhile, lane reversals have started on several South Carolina highways as people begin evacuating coastal areas. This includes Interstate 26 between Charleston and Columbia.



    12 p.m. EDT Tuesday:

    South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster canceled the mandatory evacuation order for three counties – Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton – which were set to go into effect at 12 p.m. EDT Tuesday. The decision is based on the most recent projections.

    However, there is still a mandatory evacuation order for Edisto Beach in Colleton County, McMaster said.

    Mandatory evacuation orders remain in place for the other five counties announced Monday: Charleston, Dorchester, Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties.

    For older reports about preparations for Hurricane Florence, click here.

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