Carolina coast braces for 'Mike Tyson punch' from hurricane

Florence is now a powerful Category 3 storm with winds of 125mph, and is expected to strengthen before making landfall along the Carolina coast later this week.

As of 2 p.m. EDT today (Sept. 12), Florence was a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) at its location about 435 miles (700 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Florence had maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour) and was on a trajectory that showed its center most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina by Friday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

About 1.7 million people across the three states affected - North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia - have been told to leave their homes ahead of the storm's arrival.

Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it is unclear how many did. Some of these reactors - including Duke Energy's Brunswick and Harris nuclear plants in North Carolina and Dominion Energy's Surry plant in Virginia - may be directly in the hurricane's path, Reuters reported.

Hurricane Florence is being called a "monster" storm, and the warnings have been dire.

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"Hurricane Florence is looking even bigger than anticipated", Trump said.

"This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast", said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He will gain power in the warm waters of the Atlantic, therefore, can achieve the highest category. All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast. Now hurricane "Florence" waiting in Washington, where he also declared a state of emergency.

With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand. Potential threats from hurricanes include powerful winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, tornadoes, and landslides. She said it will become a "major flooding event".

Hurricane-force winds were blowing 80 miles from its centre, and tropical storm force winds reached up to 195 miles from the eye.

Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.

Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11ft of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3ft of rain, touching off severe flooding.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that Fema and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

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