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Reports: Evacuations underway from South Carolina to Virginia as Florence approaches as powerful Category 4 hurricane

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer

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As Hurricane Florence regains strength and tracks westward toward the Carolinas, communities along the eastern United States coast have begun preparing for a potential impact.

Governors of four states – Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina – as well as Washington, D.C., have declared states of emergency as the likelihood of a hit from potentially life-threatening Florence increases in the coming days.

(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.


Florence is expected to grow stronger as it enters a favorable environment for intensification early this week, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

"Given the projected strength and organization of Florence, where it does make landfall it will bring catastrophic damage to beaches, all structures and severely disrupt and damage much of the infrastructure," said AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

The storm grew into the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season's first Category 4 hurricane last week, but a zone of strong wind shear and cooler waters later weakened the storm.

“Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a press conference on Sunday.

Many residents within the storm's projected path are already stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other essential hurricane supplies, while school and college officials are beginning to announce class cancellations, according to the Associated Press.

Swimmers are also being urged to stay out of the water as the seas start kicking up along beaches, the AP reported.

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

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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." North Carolina Emergency Management said.

Meanwhile, leave reversals have started on several highways in South Carolina as people begin to evacuate from near the coast. This includes Interstate 26 between Charleston and Columbia.



12:00 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 12:00 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.


10:40 a.m. EDT Tuesday:

Traffic out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has more than quadrupled as residents and vistors evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said to CNN.

"We are seeing people leaving town. We have a four- to six-time increase of traffic heading out of Myrtle Beach, but it needs to be much more than that," she told CNN. "We still have a lot of people who are not taking this seriously. And I cannot stress enough the importance of adhering to the governor's orders for mandatory evacuation."

Evacuation traffic is reported to have increased in other areas of North Carolina and South Carolina ahead of the storm.



9:30 a.m. EDT Thursday:

While Hurricane Florence is approximately 1,000 miles away from the coast, tides are already running over a foot above normal in parts of North Carolina as the ocean begins to swell in advance of the storm.

Some extremely low-lying areas have reported coastal flooding.



7:45 a.m. EDT Tuesday:

Reports from an Air Force Reserve Unit hurricane hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 130 mph with higher gusts.

However, Florence is still a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Re-strengthening is forecast to occur during the next day or so. Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday night.

Troopers have begun the process of closing I-26 Eastbound, beginning at I-77 moving east toward Charleston, South Carolina, in anticipation of 12:00 p.m. EDT evacuation/ lane reversal, according to South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS).



5:05 a.m. EDT Tuesday:

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued a storm surge watch for the East Coast from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, northward to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. A hurricane watch has also been issued for the same region.

Hurricane Florence remains a powerful Category 4 storm as of early Tuesday morning.



4:15 a.m. EDT Tuesday:

Preparations continue to ramp up ahead of powerful Hurricane Florence's impact on the Southeast coast.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are letting passengers change travel plans if their flights are in the path of the hurricane, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Hardware stores were steadily selling generators, plywood, sand bags and other items in coastal North Carolina on Monday.

“I’ve been doing this since 1983,” Tom Roberts, manager of the Ace Hardware store in Calabash, North Carolina, told the AP as he completed another order for supplies. “This is the craziest one.”

Florence prep AP

Walker Townsend, at right, from the Isle of Palms, S.C., fills a sand bag while Dalton Trout, in center, holds the bag at the Isle of Palms municipal lot where the city was giving away free sand in preparation for Hurricane Florence at the Isle of Palms S.C., Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)



12:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday:

President Donald Trump has approved emergency declarations for North Carolina and South Carolina ahead of powerful Hurricane Florence.

Carteret County, North Carolina, announced that all government offices will be closed beginning at noon on Tuesday, Sep. 11, until further notice.



9:50 p.m. EDT Monday:

Hurricane Florence continues to gain strength as it churns over the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

As of early Monday night, Florence had maximum sustained winds of 140 mph with some higher gusts. Additionally, the area of the storm containing hurricane-force winds has doubled in size over the past 12 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Florence is expected to make landfall late on Thursday afternoon or early Thursday night as a major hurricane and may reach Category 5 strength for a time, the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

ISS florence

Hurricane Florence as seen from the International Space Station on Monday afternoon. (Photo/NASA Astronaut Ricky Arnold)



7:05 p.m. EDT Monday:

People are encountering long lines at grocery stores and gas stations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia as millions prepare and gather supplies ahead of Hurricane Florence.

Some grocery stores across the region have already run out of water, while others wait for over an hour to fill their vehicles at gas stations.

gas lines

Cars lined up for gas in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Photo/Sarah Shinners)


5:55 p.m. EDT Monday:

Evacuations have been ordered for coastal areas of Virginia starting at 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Monday afternoon.

The evacuations are for Zone A, which is the lowest-lying areas near the coast where storm surge may become a major issue as Florence approaches.



4:15 p.m. EDT Monday:

A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland as a result of the impending impact of Hurricane Florence, Gov. Lawrence Hogan announced on Monday. Maryland is the fourth state to declare a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence.

President Donald Trump is encouraging those in the path of the storm to prepare ahead of time and to listen to all warnings from officials.


3:15 p.m. EDT Monday:

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has announced mandatory evacuations along the entire 187-mile coastline of South Carolina. Evacuations will begin on noon on Tuesday and includes parts of Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Georgetown.

“We do not want to risk one South Carolina life in this hurricane,” McMaster said in a press conference on Monday afternoon.

In addition to the evacuations, there will be lane reversals along four major roads leading away from the coast to aid in evacuation efforts, including Interstate 26, and Highways 21, 278 and 510.

A list of all evacuation zones can be found on the South Carolina Emergency Management Division website.

sc zones

(Image/South Carolina Emergency Management Division)




12:05 p.m. EDT Monday:

Hurricane Florence has intensified into Category 4 strength, with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph.



11:55 a.m. EDT Monday:
American Airlines is allowing travelers to change their flights without fees due to impending impacts from Florence.


11:10 a.m. EDT Monday:

Florence has once again intensified into a major Category 3 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds at about 115 mph.

The U.S. Navy has ordered nearly 30 ships to sail from Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia to ride out Hurricane Florence in safer waters of the Atlantic Ocean.



10:35 a.m. EDT Monday:

Officials in Dare County, North Carolina, have announced a mandatory evacuation order beginning at noon on Monday for people living on or visiting Hatteras Island. Residents and visitors in other parts of Dare County will be under mandatory evacuation starting at 7 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 11.



8:40 a.m. EDT Monday:

Florence is anticipated to significantly impact areas well away from the hurricane's center, according to Kottlowski.

"Residents and interests should not focus on the actual center of the hurricane but pay more attention to the expected large wind field, storm surge flooding potential and inland flooding rainfall potential," Kottlowski said.

"There is a high potential for major inland flooding with rainfall totals of 10-20 inches over a large area of North Carolina and surrounding states," he said. "We are forecasting an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 32 inches."

This could leave many areas without public services such as clean drinking water, sanitation and all utilities for weeks, Kottlowski added, noting that hurricane watches will be issued for parts of South and North Carolina's coastal areas within the next 12-24 hours.

As residents in the path of Florence stock up on hurricane essentials, supplies are quickly dwindling in some locations.

No more water at Walmart in Wake Forest, North Carolina, during Florence prep - Instagram photo

Shelves that once stocked water at a Walmart in Wake Forest, North Carolina, are bare as local residents gather supplies before Florence's arrival. (Instagram photo/@trendingtasha)



7:50 a.m. EDT Monday:

Volunteers are already coordinating and planning disaster relief efforts for after the storm's potential impacts in South Carolina.


Meanwhile, residents along the southeastern U.S. coast have been lining up in grocery and hardware stores to gather hurricane supplies ahead of the storm.




6:30 a.m. EDT Monday:

Emergency management officials have announced that those seeking shelter in Charleston County, South Carolina, will need to find a safe shelter location outside of the county, as emergency shelters in Charleston County will not be open.

This is due to the fact that shelters in the area aren't expected to withstand a Category 3 hurricane, officials stated.

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