Hurricane watches and storm surge watches are expected to be issued Tuesday morning ahead of the arrival of Florence.
The powerful storm leaped to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday, just hours after it was deemed a Category 2. Evacuations were happening along the coast of North and South Carolina, and the projected landfall was expected between Charleston, South Carolina, and Norfolk, Virginia.
Still mostly centered in the landing area were Wilmington and Myrtle Beach, where the South Carolina governor told everyone to leave starting at noon on Tuesday.
The storm’s potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.
Sustained winds Monday afternoon were up to 140 mph. The possibility exists that the storm could be a Category 5, and that it will make North Carolina landfall as only its second Category 4 storm.
The uncertainty of exactly where Florence will cross land is linked to a high pressure system steering the storm away from what would normally be a turn northward. Developments in the Carribean are also impacting the equation.
Bladen County can expect tropical storm force winds to begin late Wednesday or early Thursday. Landfall is expected Thursday and the storm is projected to slow its movement to a near crawl after coming over land, which could produce torrential flooding from the mountains to the coast, forecasters said.
“I think this is very Harvey-esque,” said University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy. “Normally, a landfalling tropical cyclone just keeps on going inland, gradually dissipating and raining itself out. But on rare occasions, the steering patterns can line up such that a storm slips into a dead zone between troughs and ridges.”
Kevin Orth loads sandbags into cars on Milford Street as he helps residents prepare for Hurricane Florence on Monday in Charleston, S.C.