Communities along the Carolina coast buttoned up against the onslaught of Hurricane Florence as forecasters on Wednesday (Thursday NZ Time) warned that the monstrous storm could hesitate just offshore for days - punishing a longer stretch of coastline harder than previously feared - before pushing inland over the weekend. The track also shifted somewhat south and west, throwing Georgia into peril as Florence moves inland.
"Florence is intensifying", said North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper, adding: "This storm is strong, and its gettings stronger".
"In collaboration with state emergency agencies and the Georgia Hospital Association, we are monitoring bed counts daily so that we can quickly and accurately assist with any necessary evacuations", said Sydney Walker, spokesperson for Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.
Carolinians are smart to be wary of Hurricane Florence's impact on gas, after Hurricane Katrina cut supply lines from the Gulf Coast in 2005, leading to widespread shortages and consumer panic.
In South Carolina, traffic in all lanes of Interstate 26 from Charleston to Columbia has been directed away from the coast, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said.
Florence is a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 miles per hour, and is forecast to approach the coastline of the Carolinas by Friday, the National Weather Service said. A steady stream of vehicles filled with people and belongings is moving inland.
Forecasters said Wednesday that Florence's wind field is expanding, making it a large, stable hurricane with a clearly defined eye at its center.More news: Accused Russian Hit Men: We Were in Salisbury for Sightseeing, Not Poisoning
"They say it's about as big as they've seen coming to this country and certainly to the East Coast as they've ever seen".
"Once you leave, hard to get back in to check on damage", he said. "Everyone was sold out", she said.
"The impact from Harvey on home improvement has been prolonged as much of the damage was water based, and the same could happen with Florence", he writes.
North Carolina officials evacuated long-term care facilities and hundreds of prisoners in vulnerable areas, and also closed state parks, museums and other attractions. Broadline and discount retailers including Walmart(WMT) and Dollar General(DG) could see modest boosts to comparable sales, as last year's storms added at least 0.30 percentage point to Dollar General's and Walmart's US same-store sales.
Florence's projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons.
"The biggest thing is you're always anxious about yourself and friends and family - and whether they'll have a place to come back to", he said.