"Right now, I think all North Carolinians need to be concerned about Hurricane Florence", said Barnes, who also serves as director of development for the North Carolina Aquarium Society.

- A nationally renowned hurricane expert compares Hurricane Florence with some of the worst disasters in North Carolina's history.

"Interests elsewhere in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic states should monitor the progress of Florence".

He said the agency has implemented changes since 2017, improving their partnerships with the private sector, in particular fuel, transportation and electrical companies, to better meet needs on the ground after a disaster.

North Carolina State postponed its home game against West Virginia University in Raleigh, North Carolina, adding that tickets will remain valid if the schools are able to reschedule the contest for later in the season.

The center says the storm is moving west-northwest at 17 miles per hour, and has maximum sustained winds of about 130 miles per hour. It is now located 950 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear.

Nasa said the storm, now brewing above the Atlantic Ocean, had weakened to Category 1 strength, but is expected to strengthen into a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall on the USA mainland.

If it stays at Category 4, "catastrophic damage will occur", said the NHC. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed.

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Similar evacuations are happening all the way up to Virginia, where the governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents of some low-lying coastal areas. "[They were] days and weeks after the storm because the floodwater lingered".

A storm covering enormous area, to drench and lash more people.

The hurricane could reach Category 5 strength, which requires sustained winds of 157 miles per hour or greater.

If a Category 5 hits the southeastern US, "a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse", said the NHC.

Cooper, the governor of neighboring North Carolina, ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination, and parts of coastal Dare County. It was located farther north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we're forecasting is unprecedented.

"You are talking about the entire ocean level rising up as a storm of this size makes landfall", Barnes said.

"We could cover several states easily with the cloud cover alone", Graham said. Massive waves from the hurricane will make the rush of water even more risky and damaging, the National Hurricane Center warned.

About 25 years ago, the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew ripped through Florida with 175-mph winds, leaving millions without power and many neighborhoods completely destroyed.