Hurricane Florence may spare Savannah; evacuations ordered in Bluffton, Hilton Head

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"Further strengthening is anticipated and Florence is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday", the NHC said in a statement.

As mandatory evacuations begin for parts of three East Coast states, millions of Americans have been preparing for what could become one of the most catastrophic hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard in decades.

Jones urged Chatham County residents to continue to monitor Florence and be generally prepared for hurricanes with a hurricane kit, shelter-in-place supplies and an evacuation plan.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory evacuation of all eight counties on the coast on Monday, The State newspaper in Columbia reported.

Evacuations were also ordered along the Virginia coast for about 245,000 people, according to Gov. Ralph Northam.

The storm's path could change, though the National Weather Service gets more certain of its forecast as the window to landfall shortens. Many teachers and school staff reportedly evacuated on Monday.

By noon EDT on Monday, Florence had top sustained winds of 130 miles per hour.

"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said. The storm's winds had increased to 140 miles per hour by Monday afternoon.

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Tropical-storm-force winds could reach the coast as early as Wednesday night. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence's hurricane wind field was expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats along with life-threatening freshwater flooding.

"Team South Carolina is moving into position.to facilitate the evacuation, but are also positioning to do post-storm activities", said Maj.

Florence is forecast to make landfall in North Carolina late Thursday as a major hurricane and subject the region to high winds and heavy rain. "Probably not too much better, but most likely safer than here", she said.

She and her husband would decide Tuesday morning whether to evacuate their family of two kids and a dog, said LaRoche.

Several meteorologists said Florence could approach what Hurricane Harvey did a year ago over Texas, dumping days of rain over a wide area.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial all shut down Monday, the national seashore announced.

"All indications are that the storm will slow down and just crawl or meander over the inland sections and the coastal Piedmont", Weather Channel hurricane expert Bryan Norcross said.

The swells will make for rough seas along and well off the U.S. East Coast, Bermuda, the northern shores of the Caribbean islands and the south- and southeast-facing shores of the Canada Maritimes, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes, fill sandbags and secure their homes. That Category 4 storm destroyed 15,000 buildings and killed 19 people in North Carolina. Please take all necessary precautions.

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