Tuesday afternoon, lanes were reversed on USA 501 and three other SC highways as residents of the coastal area fled from Hurricane Florence, a raging tropical cyclone that is expected to deliver a crippling blow to a large swath of the Mid-Atlantic Coast and inland areas today (Thursday) and tomorrow.
Its centre will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Centre said.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour (225 km per hour), the storm ranked as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and was expected to grow stronger and larger over the next few days, the NHC said. More than one million people living along the Carolina-Virginia coast are under mandatory evacuation orders.
Hurricane Florence has potential to cause "massive damage" to the USA southern east coast and mid-Atlantic. "This one is different".
Duke is moving staff and equipment toward North Carolina's coast to monitor the disposal sites for coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity. As much as 10 to 20 inches (250-500mm) of rain is forecast from the Carolinas into Virginia as the storm stalls inland.
Florence could be only the second Category 4 storm to pummel the Carolinas since 1800, when record-keeping began. "This is not an arcing storm, this is coming right in at 90 degrees, and those are the worst storms as far as keeping their intensity", explains WeatherBELL Meteorologist Joe Bastardi.
NHC forecasts showed the effects of Florence would be widely felt, with tropical storm-force winds extending almost 300 miles across three states.
As of 8 a.m. today, Florence was a Category 4 hurricane packing 130 miles per hour winds and moving about 15 miles per hour west-northwest.
"Hurricane Florence has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding, especially in our coastal areas", Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said, activating the National Guard.
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Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and on its current path the eye of the storm will pass near Wilmington and the southern beach towns.
"If we get more than 25 inches of rain, then we'll start to be concerned", he said.
Because of the storm's potential damaging impacts, Pasquotank and Camden counties have joined the ranks of local governments in declaring a state of emergency.
In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate by 8am Tuesday including from the Eastern Shore, another popular beachfront getaway destination. He declared states of emergency for North and SC, which frees up help from federal agencies.
North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said his state was "in the bullseye" of the storm and urged people to "get ready now". "We are totally prepared", Trump said at the White House, adding that the administration would go to Congress for emergency funding.
A mother and infant in North Carolina are dead after a tree fell on their home - the first two fatalities of Hurricane Florence.
Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 300 miles (485 kilometres) ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swath from SC to OH and Pennsylvania could get deluged.
"This is not going to be a quick hit across the coast", he said.
"It's going to be inconvenient but we don't want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", said Gov. Henry McMaster. East Carolina officials say they had decided the team wouldn't travel to Blacksburg due to "significant imminent safety concerns", including "perilous travel conditions before, during and after the storm".