Motorists streamed inland on highways converted into one-way routes Tuesday as more than 1 million people in three states were ordered to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a hair-raising storm taking dead aim at the Carolinas with 130 miles per hour winds and potentially ruinous rains.
Mandatory evacuation orders are in effect Tuesday in three US states as forecasters and officials urge people to get ready for devastating winds and heavy rains from Hurricane Florence.
Here's what to expect from Florence and when to expect it, based on the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center and other sources.
Florence is now around 800 miles from Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 16mph with winds of 130mph.
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 U.S. mainland.
South Carolina's governor ordered the state's entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon on Tuesday.
Any storm surge taller than 12 feet is "life-threatening", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
Forecasters have predicted as much as 20inches of rain in parts of North Carolina, which could cause potentially fatal flooding.
The US capital declared a state of emergency Tuesday as Hurricane Florence bears down on the US East Coast, threatening torrential rain and flooding in the Washington region.
The NWS predicts potential storm surges of up to 3.6m on the coasts along with dangerously large swells and rip currents.
Gov. Rick Scott released a statement on Monday urging Floridians to be prepared for the unexpected and remain on alert about Hurricane Florence.
President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC, facilitating federal help, and cancelled campaign events Thursday and Friday, citing the storm.
Forecasts call for the system to stall over the state and drench it for days, leading to extensive power outages and flooding. Shelves in some grocery stores in Raleigh, North Carolina, were already bare, and residents were filling up their petrol tanks. That Category 4 storm destroyed 15,000 buildings and killed 19 people in North Carolina.
Florence is on track to slow down significantly after landfall.
"We know that this evacuation order is going to be inconvenient for some people", Governor Henry McMaster said at a news conference on Monday afternoon, "but we do not want to risk one life".