"The Storms in the Atlantic are very risky".
For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other risky conditions.
Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations.
"Little change in strength is expected before the eye of Florence reaches the coast, with slow weakening expected after the center moves inland or meanders near the coast", it said.
Florence is forecasted to remain an "extremely risky major hurricane" through Thursday, the day when it's expected to reach the Carolinas.
Georgia governor declares state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence
The port in Charleston, South Carolina, though, was suspending operations from Thursday through Saturday and possibly on Sunday. The percentage of customers who may be affected by power outages following Hurricane Florence .
The storm was edging closer to the USA and was 975 miles (1570km) east-south-east of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
The National Hurricane Center warned Monday there could be a "life-threatening" storm surge, rip currents, and freshwater flooding along the coasts of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, plus damaging hurricane-force winds at the coasts and further inland.
"It's an extremely unsafe, life-threatening, historic hurricane ... the forecast shows Florence stalling over North Carolina, bringing days and days of rain".
Preparations intensified up and down the densely populated coast.
The National Hurricane Center is offering that warning on Tuesday morning as hurricane watches and storm surge watches were issued for the coasts of North Carolina and SC for the first time.
Since 1851, only one hurricane has brought sustained Category-4 winds to North Carolina: Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach said.
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Red flags have already been flying on beaches, warning swimmers to stay out of the water as seas began kicking up.
Families should prepare their emergency kits (keep scrolling for a list of items to put in them) and determine what they will do in case of a necessary evacuation.
The storm "is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances", SC governor Henry McMaster said, issuing his state's emergency declaration.
A supervisor at the North Carolina emergency management office was welcoming workers back and telling them to prepare for a long week.
In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged people to remain away from home despite forecast changes showing Florence's path largely missing the state. Trucks, chain saws, front loaders, motor graders, backhoes, barricades, road closed signs and high water signs are all ready to be dispatched throughout the state should the need arise. Parts of the Carolinas could see 50 cm to 76 cm, with isolated areas getting 101 cm, over seven days along the coast.
The city of Wilmington in North Carolina is expected to be the first major city hit by the storm.
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