Carolinas brace for the worst as monstrous Hurricane Florence nears

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US President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal resources for storm response.

"As I write this I am surrounded by 20 hard core locals who are here expressing concern for one another and general consensus is most are staying to courageous the storm for better or worse", one of the bar's owners told CNN in an Instagram message from the Tavern Law account. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.

Maps of Florence's route show its centre will most likely strike the southern coast of North Carolina.

More than 1 million residents have been ordered to evacuate the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools and factories were being shuttered.

"This one really scares me", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

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FEMA Associate Administrator Jeff Byard warned residents in a press conference to expect infrastructure damage, power outages, and that the storm "has the potential to cause loss of life". It's going to destroy infrastructure.

States of emergency were declared by Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser for the nation's capital; requested by Virginia's governor; and approved by President Donald Trump for North and SC.

To the north, most of Maryland is in the 4-10-inch range.

The nearly 500-mile wide storm swirling towards the U.S. east coast "could be the most risky storm in the history of the Carolinas", the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) administrator, Brock Long, warned on Tuesday afternoon. "We were getting tornado warnings and everything", she said, adding that at one point they were sleeping on mattresses on the floor of their home to be closer to the nervous pets.

But the slowing also means the bands of the heaviest rain that swirl around the hurricane are likely to do what meteorologists call training, a phenomenon where rain bands pass over one location repeatedly. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

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But the fine weather was short-lived, with the opposite side of the hurricane's eyewall on the horizon.

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. It took Matheson and her husband almost the whole day Monday to drive the 60 miles (100 kilometers) off the barrier island.

"It was so handsome. Eighty-five degrees", Matheson said, pausing a moment.

Florence has forced people to cut their holidays short along the coast, while the storm's projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous pig farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons. Hurricane force winds extend 40 miles from Florence's eye and tropical storm force winds extend 150 miles.

Governors in SC and Virginia have also issued mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the storm.

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In Wilmington, North Carolina, a bar has boarded up its windows. We've never seen anything like this on the East Coast, at least.