McMaster lifts evacuation order for 3 coastal SC counties

McMaster lifts evacuation order for 3 coastal SC counties

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.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says it expects the storm to make landfall in North Carolina or SC late Thursday into Friday as "an extremely unsafe major hurricane".

Classified as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Florence was the most severe storm to threaten the USA mainland this year and the first of its magnitude to target the Carolinas since 1989, when Hurricane Hugo barreled over Charleston, South Carolina. "With Florence strengthening into a hurricane this morning and continuing to move west, Florida families need to remain alert and remember that storms like this can change course and strengthen at any moment", said Gov. Rick Scott.

More than a million people are expected to flee low-lying areas, as SC and Virginia ordered mandatory evacuations of coastal areas starting on Tuesday.

Mandatory coastal evacuations were in effect for civilians in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, but the military base posted on Facebook that different chains-of-command would decide whether to release non-essential personnel, and some relatives vented fears that they wouldn't be able to evacuate in time.

Hurricane Florence is likely to approach Category 5 status, the most powerful grade of hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday.

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Coastal areas are likely to experience storm surges and the hurricane may dump heavy rains across the entire mid-Atlantic region, causing unsafe floods. Troops have received ready-to-deploy orders for Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Life-threatening and catastrophic river and flash flooding is also a near certainty for the Carolinas. "Hurricane-force winds, storm surge inundation, again, are all possible in the watch area". It stretches 340 miles across, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The NHC warned they're likely to cause "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions".

He also asked President Donald Trump for an early federal disaster declaration to prepare for anticipated damage in the state. All three states have declared states of emergency. Some 27 percent of the deaths have come from rain-driven flooding, sometimes hundreds of miles inland.

Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive. The storm's track is now heading toward the North Carolina city of Jacksonville, about 50 miles north of Wilmington.

"Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of SC and is going to go way inshore", McMaster said in a press conference.

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