Florence, now a Category 2 hurricane, is forecast to unleash extreme storm surge, possibly historic flooding rains, and damaging winds in the Carolinas beginning Thursday. "Florence developed further north and east in the Atlantic than you'd expect for a storm that reaches the US", said Chris Davis, senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research. It was located about 85 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 145 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The storm's center was about 165 miles (265 km) east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands.
Up to 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate across South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
Evacuation orders have been enacted for portions of SC and North Carolina. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm.
About 10 million people live in areas that were under either hurricane or tropical storm warnings and watches Thursday. They say they should have a clear idea or the path of the storm and what it could bring once it is 20 to 30 hours out from hitting our region.More news: Trump says JPMorgan CEO lacks ‘smarts’ to be president
Forecasters say the storm poses such a threat because it is expected to slow down and hover for almost two days over the Carolina coast, before dipping south towards Georgia.
National Hurricane CenterWilmington is likely to experience high storm surges of up to 13 feet from Hurricane Florence.
"In 12 or 18 hours, they may be saying different things all over again", he said.
Though many models differ on the storm's path after it passes over the Carolinas, Sullivan says majority show the storm impacting Eastern Kentucky. Unsure of what they might find when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle.More news: Browns offense looks to improve heading into Week 2
Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.
"There is overwash but nothing we are not used to", she said. Three other Southern raceways also opened campgrounds to evacuees.
Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.
Emergency preparations included activating more than 2,700 National Guard troops, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so major roads led away from shore, and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the Carolinas and Virginia.
But while many coastal residents have complied with mandatory evacuation orders, others are boarding up their homes and vowing to ride out the storm.More news: Hurricane Florence starts battering US East Coast
"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said.