Cooper issues first state evacuation order in memory in NC

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More than 1.5 million people were ordered on Tuesday to evacuate their homes along the USA southeast coast to escape Hurricane Florence, a major Category 4 storm expected to make landfall in the Carolinas later this week.

Florence is barreling straight for North Carolina, with coastal residents fleeing what may be the most powerful hurricane to hit the state in 64 years.

The storm is now 905 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, with landfall predicted between Charleston, South Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia.

Florence is a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 220 kilometers per hour and forecasters think it will gain more strength Tuesday or Wednesday.

The watch covers the area from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, north to the North Carolina-Virginia border, according to a statement issued Tuesday morning.

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.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ordered evacuations in flood-prone areas in the Hampton Roads area, which is home to one of the busiest ports in the United States as well as the largest naval base in the world.

The National Hurricane Center has issued its first Hurricane Watches for the east coast as Hurricane Florence continues its trek toward North Carolina.

"Inland flooding will be a major threat and something people far from the landfall location should be concerned about", CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

On its current track, Florence is expected to slam South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia the hardest.

Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 300 miles ahead of its eye, and so rainy that a swath of states from SC to OH and Pennsylvania could get deluged.

The 15-day emergency signed by Bowser noted that Florence was "forecasted to produce high winds, rainfall and storm surge" with "serious widespread effects in the region". Tuesday morning's data from hurricane-hunting aircraft supports this forecast, the center said.

The hurricane is generating swells that are already affecting Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast.

Florence "will bring extreme wind damage and surge damage, " said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "It is an extremely, dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane", said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Trump has approved emergency declarations for both coastal states, a standard move allowing the release of federal funds and equipment to aid in protection and recovery efforts. And of course, inland flooding from heavy rain.

"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", the governor told reporters.

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