Florence grew into a major hurricane on Monday morning and was upgraded again to a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength at midday as its top sustained wind speeds reached 130 miles per hour.
As forecasters closely monitor the exact track of Hurricane Florence, there is growing certainty that Eastern North Carolina will see significant impacts from the storm. A storm with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour classifies as a Category 3 major hurricane, according to the NHC.
The National Hurricane Center warns that Florence could soon cause a coastal surge that includes flooding before the storm is projected for US landfall (probably) on Thursday. "And not just Virginia, but our neighbors to the south".
Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation ahead of Hurricane Florence for all coastal counties in SC on Monday, including Beaufort, Colleton, and Jasper counties. The move will allow the state to use the National Guard for preparations and recovery if necessary. Virginia's price gouging law allows for a civil penalty of up to $2,500 per violation (or up to $5,000 if in violation of an injunction), and North Carolina allows for a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation.
A high-pressure ridge building to the north and northwest of Florence is expected to steer the hurricane west-north-westward to northwestward toward the southeastern USA coast.
The storm "is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances", South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said, issuing his state's emergency declaration. "We know we can´t play around with this", said Jennifer Oosterwyk, who owns the Sugar Britches boutique on Holden Beach and lives in nearby Wilmington.
Florence is now a category 4 hurricane.
In coastal Charleston, South Carolina, city officials offered sandbags to residents.
The storm could bring heavy rainfall and localized flooding to the Lesser Antilles, Accuweather reported, as well as tree and power line damage.
By noon EDT on Monday, Florence had top sustained winds of 130 miles per hour.
Since reliable record-keeping began more than 150 years ago, North Carolina has only been hit by one Category 4 hurricane: Hazel, with 130 miles per hour winds in 1954.
All of Hatteras Island was under mandatory evacuation order and other parts of the Outer Banks will have to evacuate by 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) on Tuesday, Dare County Emergency Management said in a statement.
Florence is just one of four active hurricanes as of right now, as Hurricane Olivia is projected to make landfall in Hawaii this week as well.
Hurricane Helene, was spinning in the Atlantic off West Africa's Cape Verde islands with 85-mph (140-kph) winds on Monday, but did not appear to pose an immediate threat to land.
Experts have forecast the upgraded tropical storm will gather force - going from a category 1 hurricane to a category 3 on Monday morning.