Trump says government is 'absolutely, totally prepared' for Hurricane Florence

F-22s prepare to depart Langley Air Force Base Va. as Hurricane Florence approaches the Eastern Seaboard

F-22s prepare to depart Langley Air Force Base Va. as Hurricane Florence approaches the Eastern Seaboard

If Hurricane Florence's predicted track holds, it will be the first Category 4 storm to make landfall directly on the North Carolina coast. The governors of North Carolina and Virginia have announced mandatory evacuations of hundreds of thousands more in their states.

The path, intensity and timing of the storm is likely to keep changing through the day Wednesday, but the latest 5 a.m. update shows Florence will no longer be close to Category 5 - with winds of 145 miles per hour - through Thursday morning. Unfortunately, the forecast is for the storm to stall out and drop a ton of rain in the Carolinas.

Residents prepared by boarding up their homes and stocking up on food, water and other essentials, stripping many grocery store shelves of merchandise.

The National Hurricane Center is predicting the storm will produce "catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding". Electricity supplies are also expected to be threatened by the wind.

"We are sparing no expense".

Highways clogged with people fleeing North and SC early Wednesday as monstrous Category 4 Hurricane Florence rumbled toward the eastern United States as the biggest storm there in decades. The storm, as of Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. EDT, has sustained maximum winds of 130 miles per hour, keeping it as a Category 4, and is still expected to be a major hurricane when it hits land.

Tropical Storm watch: North of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, Virginia and Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said the emergency was "effective immediately" and "ensures that we will have the resources we need to prepare". Over the weekend, authorities undertook more than two dozen rescues at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.

Porter Airlines warned that flights to Newark, N.J. could be delayed or cancelled because of unfavourable weather.

Massive waves from the hurricane will make the rush of water even more unsafe and damaging, the National Hurricane Center warned.

Southwest Airlines said travelers booked to fly from six cities from Baltimore to SC can rebook their flights within 14 days of their original dates with no additional cost.

Last year's Hurricane Maria, for instance, spun up from a mere tropical depression into a Category 5 storm in just over two days; or 2015's Hurricane Patricia, whose winds in the Eastern Pacific exceeded 337kph, more than 80kph stronger than the weakest category 5 storms.

At 2am local time on Wednesday the "monster" storm was centred 625 miles south east of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17mph.

"We will experience power outages, we will have infrastructure damage, there will be homes damaged, there will be debris on the roads - this will be a storm that creates and causes massive damage to our country", announced Jeffrey Byard, Response and Recovery administrator for FEMA.

Trojniar said she and her husband were packing up belongings and planned to stack sandbags around their single-floor home in Wilmington's Landfall neighbourhood near the ocean before checking into a hotel to ride out the storm. "Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!"

Major US military installments may be in the path of the Florence, including the largest Marine base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and the world's biggest Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia.

The vessels would get underway from Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek to avoid potential damage from winds and tidal surges, said Colonel Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

Two other hurricanes, Helene and Isaac, are now trailing Florence in the Atlantic and forecasters have warned that they could head for the UK.

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