Combined with high tides, the storm surge could swell as high as 12 feet.
People weren't the only ones evacuating to get out of the path of Hurricane Florence.
- To whip up a monstrous storm like the one chugging for the Carolinas you need a handful of ingredients - and Florence has them all. "This is a storm that is historic, maybe once in a lifetime".
Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and SC and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall on Friday, and its rains will take a heavy toll for miles inland, the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the federal government would spare no expense in responding to the likely damage from Hurricane Florence, which is forecast to slam the Carolina coast later this week.
Hurricane Florence is still a few days out from making landfall, and as we've seen, the forecast tract has varied.
Carrying winds of up to 140 miles per hour (220 kph) as a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Florence is expected to strengthen and become a Category 5 storm Tuesday. At 8 a.m. (1200 GMT) on Wednesday the storm was located about 530 miles (855 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
An evacuation order from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam applies to about 245,000 people, including parts of the Hampton Roads area and Eastern Shore.
Far from this hurricane parade on the other side of the globe, Tropical Storm Olivia is flying solo east of Hawaii.
"But again, trying to just get some of these animals out into the foster homes so we can clear shelter for emergency situations", says Donna Stucker with the Humane Society.
"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm anxious about the rain and tornadoes too", Roberts said. Sharp added that some areas could see flooding where he hasn't flooded before.
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The storm's first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as unsafe rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway - the harbinger of a storm surge that could wipe out dunes and submerge entire communities.
The storm's first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as risky rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter warned of the storm's dangers and praised his administration's handling of past hurricanes, rejecting criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria a year ago in Puerto Rico. A hurricane warning was posted for most of the Carolina coast north to the Virginia border.
Michael Kennedy, an engineer at Boeing, said he planned to leave on Tuesday for his parents' home in Atlanta, Georgia.
"You never know, there could be tree missiles coming from any direction", she said.
Charleston, resident William Belli said he would not be among those joining the exodus. The storm is in the process of undergoing what's called an eyewall replacement cycle, which is breaking down the old eyewall and creating a new one. "Not anxious in the least".
Walking his dog along empty streets, Belli said he's well stocked with food and water.
"It's not just the coast", Graham said.
Cooper and his counterparts in neighboring SC and Virginia ordered about 1 million people to evacuate coastal homes, including along the Outer Banks barrier islands. Schools in 26 of the state's 46 counties were ordered closed from Tuesday.
Governors in SC and Virginia have also issued mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the storm.
The governor of Maryland has said the flooding from Florence will potentially be catastrophic and life threatening. Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive.