Millions on US East Coast brace for 'extremely dangerous' Hurricane Florence

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With maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center, Florence's most risky aspect could be the amount of rain it could dump as it moves up the East Coast after making landfall, with flooding and power outages expected across the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia early on.

Hurricane Florence intensified to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday as it barreled towards the US East Coast, where millions of people are bracing for potentially devastating winds and water later this week.

The National Hurricane Center is warning that a life-threatening storm surge along the coast of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia is likely.

Florence is now around 800 miles from Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 16mph with winds of 130mph.

As of the 5am update from the National Hurricane Center, Florence is still a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and gusts 160-170 miles per hour.

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Arrival: Florence's landfall is expected late Thursday night or Friday morning.

A life-threatening storm surge is forecast in portions of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for more than 1 million people in coastal areas of the Carolinas and Virginia.

Many coastal residents in North and SC have already evacuated. Troops have received ready-to-deploy orders for Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. "It is an extremely unsafe, life-threatening, historic hurricane", Cooper said at a news conference outlining state preparations in advance of the storm. Storm surge is highly dependent on the track of Hurricane Florence and could change in the coming days. "We've weathered tough hurricanes before, and we will do it again". As they fly in and out of the hurricane's eye, researchers can collect valuable data on the storm's speed, intensity and structure, according to NOAA's Hurricane Hunters website.

National Hurricane Centre director Ken Graham warned that Florence is forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore.

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But, despite the concern from meteorologists, US President Donald Trump was confident, saying the federal government is "absolutely, totally prepared". With 1-to-3 feet of rainfall expected in some areas, significant river flooding will occur.

The Pentagon said Monday it has sent an advance military team to an emergency operations center in Raleigh, North Carolina, to coordinate with federal and state partners in relief efforts.

"We've seen nor'easters and we've seen hurricanes before", Cooper said, "but this one is different".

Sharp said weather conditions will deteriorate as we go through the day on Thursday with rain, a little wind and the chance of tornadoes.

North Carolina has multiple routes leading and no major population center along the coast to evacuate, so it doesn't need to take such drastic steps, Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said.

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