UNITED STATES — As Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast of the United States, the governors of Virginia, North and South Carolina have issued mandatory evacuation orders affecting hundreds of thousands of residents in coastal areas.
Florence was upgraded twice Monday to Category 4, prompting numerous warnings from state officials to not underestimate the threat the storm poses. The size of hurricane-force winds doubled over 12 hours from 30 to 60 mph, the National Hurricane Center said Monday afternoon. The wind field is expected to keep growing, which will increase the storm surge and inland wind threats, the service said in a statement.
“The bottom line is that there is high confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity,” the NHC said.
A mandatory evacuation order takes effect Tuesday at noon in eight counties along South Carolina’s 187-mile coastline. Starting then, all roads on I-26 and Route 501 will be directed away from the coast, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said.
“This is a real hurricane we have coming,” McMaster said Monday, “We don’t want to risk one South Carolina life.”
State government offices, including schools and medical facilities, will be closed in 26 counties, McMaster said. He estimated that about one million people will be affected by the order, including residents and visitors.
In Virginia, mandatory evacuations begin 8 a.m. Tuesday for about 245,000 residents in a portion of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore area, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday. “Everyone in Virginia needs to prepare,” he said. “This is a serious storm and it’s going to affect the entire state of Virginia.”
Meantime, residents of coastal areas boarded up homes and packed their bags as they braced for Florence’s wrath. Lines formed at gas stations as people heeded warnings to gas up in case they’re ordered to leave.
Similar scenes were repeated up and down the US East Coast, from Virginia to Savannah, Georgia.
Grocery stores began selling out of water, milk and bread, and supply stores were struggling to stock batteries, plywood and generators as early as Sunday.