Hurricane Florence is churning towards the United States east coast, prompting authorities to order more than a million people to evacuate the path of the extremely unsafe storm, which forecasters said could soon intensify.
Florence, now a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (209 km/h), was previously expected to travel north, up the North Carolina coast, after making landfall, according to the statement.
Florence is forecast to move slowly over the Carolinas after making landfall Thursday night or Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
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Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and SC.
Two other tropical storms - Isaac and Olivia - have also been in the vicinity this week, with the National Weather Service estimating that some 10.15 million people lived in areas under either hurricane or tropical storm warnings.
Hurricane Florence is bigger than the state of North Carolina and four times larger than Ohio.
Will Epperson, a 36-year-old golf course assistant superintendent, said he and his wife had planned to ride out the storm at their home in Hampstead, North Carolina, but then reconsidered.
"We are. coordinating closely with state and local officials to help ensure the safety of our employees and our property prior to the storm's landfall", CSX spokesman Christopher Smith said.
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Fountain said most storms are an inconvenience, "but Hurricane Florence will be a life-changing event for many people here in the Carolinas".
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office predicted "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages", cautioning that the deadliest risk would come from flooding.
Jeff Byard, who is the FEMA associate administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery, said that Florence is "a very risky storm", Fox News reported.
As of 11 p.m. EDT Wednesday, the storm was centered 260 miles (455 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 17 mph (28 kph).
Forecasters expected some strengthening today, as Florence marches west-north-west at around 13kmh.
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination.
That's because the weather systems that usually push and pull a storm are disappearing as Florence nears land around the border between North and SC. "I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas".