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Multiple states are bracing for a potentially “catastrophic” storm, and North Carolina -- with its vulnerable barrier islands --South Carolina and Virginia have given evacuation orders to more than 1.25 million people as Hurricane Florence continues its menacing churn toward the East Coast, where it is expected to make landfall later this week.

The National Hurricane Center said Monday that the storm is rapidly intensifying over the Atlantic Ocean and is now a major hurricane, with winds near 130 mph. Florence was upgraded from Category 3 to Category 4 on Monday and is expected to strengthen further before making landfall Thursday night or Friday morning.

Four states — South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland — have declared states of emergency. 

During a wide-ranging news conference Monday afternoon, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for eight coastal counties, which goes into effect at noon Tuesday. Those counties are: Charleston, Berkeley, Beaufort, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry and Jasper. 

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has not issued a state of emergency, but his chief of staff, Chris Riley says that the Georgia Emergency Management Agency began tracking and monitoring the storm Monday. 

With storms like this, people often have lots of questions about when it will make landfall, what areas should be affected and what’s being done in preparation. 

Several airlines will allow customers to change their flights at no extra cost if they're scheduled to travel through cities in the hurricane's path. American Airlines, Southwest and JetBlue have all offered fee waivers to customers heading in or out of some airports in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia.

Officials in North Carolina issued mandatory evacuation orders for Hatteras Island, on the southern end of the Outer Banks, beginning at noon Monday. The northern part of the Outer Banks, including the popular tourist destinations of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk and Nags Head, must be evacuated beginning Tuesday morning, Dare County Emergency Management said.

"Everyone in Dare County is encouraged to evacuate as soon as possible,” the agency said.

On Monday, as Cooper warned residents across the entire state — not just those along the coast — to be alert, he reminded North Carolinians that they have experienced this before.

South Carolina will also shut down its state offices and schools in 26 counties, repurposing the buildings for shelters and the school buses for transportation.

In Virginia, officials warned of a once-in-a-lifetime storm as Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered a mandatory evacuation in parts of the Hampton Roads area and the state’s Eastern Shore, where 245,000 people live.

3 Hurricanes currently in the tropical Atlantic

3 Hurricanes currently in the tropical Atlantic

“This is a serious storm, and it’s going to affect the entire state of Virginia,” Northam said at a Monday news briefing.

Virginia has mobilized its entire National Guard, some 6,000 troops, a move state officials say is unprecedented. Authorities have also called on other states to send water rescue teams to help.

Maryland officials said residents along the state’s Eastern Shore and those who live in areas that have seen a lot of rain in recent days are most at risk.

“We are preparing for the potential of historic, catastrophic and life-threatening flooding in Maryland,” said Gov. Larry Hogan (R) at a Monday news briefing.

Hogan said state officials are still unsure about the hurricane’s path and its potential impact on Maryland but that authorities are ready to respond.

“While we’re hoping for the best, we’re preparing for the worst,” Hogan said.

Kenneth from the Donegal Weather Channel



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