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Florence: More than 1.5 million ordered to evacuate now

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a group of people in a vehicle: South Carolina National Guard soldiers transfer bulk diesel fuel into fuel tanker trucks for distribution in advance of Hurricane Florence, in North Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Brian Calhoun/Handout via REUTERS © Provided by The Weather Network South Carolina National Guard soldiers transfer bulk diesel fuel into fuel tanker trucks for distribution in advance of Hurricane Florence, in North Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Brian Calhoun/Handout via REUTERS

More than 1.5 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes along the U.S. Atlantic coast as Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm and the most powerful to menace the Carolinas in nearly three decades, barreled in on Tuesday.

ONLY GETTING STRONGER

Florence, packing winds of 220 km/h, was expected to grow even stronger before making landfall on Thursday, mostly likely in southeastern North Carolina near the South Carolina border, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. "We are in the bull's eye," North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told reporters on Monday.

MASS EVACUATIONS

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an evacuation order for about 245,000 residents in flood-prone coastal areas beginning at 8 a.m. local time and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered more than 1 million residents along his state's coastline to leave starting at noon on Tuesday.

At least 250,000 more people were due to be evacuated from the northern Outer Banks in North Carolina on Tuesday after more than 50,000 people were ordered on Monday to leave Hatteras and Ocracoke, the southernmost of the state's barrier islands.

a group of people in a vehicle: South Carolina National Guard soldiers transfer bulk diesel fuel into fuel tanker trucks for distribution in advance of Hurricane Florence, in North Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Brian Calhoun/Handout via REUTERS © Provided by The Weather Network South Carolina National Guard soldiers transfer bulk diesel fuel into fuel tanker trucks for distribution in advance of Hurricane Florence, in North Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Brian Calhoun/Handout via REUTERS

(MUST READ FORECAST: Key reasons WHY Florence is a life-threatening storm, latest)

North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland governors have declared states of emergency.

FLORENCE COMPARISON: A REVIEW OF MONSTER CAROLINA HURRICANES

Hurricane Florence isn't the first to set its sights on the U.S. Southeast -- and the roll call of the storms that came before it includes some of the biggest names out there.

As it steams toward the Carolina coast, the potential for Hurricane Florence to become the latest in a long line of monster hurricanes to impact the region dangerously increases. There's high confidence that this will be a history-making system and we take a look back at some of the most memorable storms that have come before, including one that left permanent mark on Canada.

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HURRICANE FLOYD - September 1999

  • Category 2 at landfall, with winds near 166 km/h
  • Storm surge of 9 to 10 feet reported along North Carolina coast
  • Wilmington, North Carolina -- near the projected landfall point for Florence -- recorded more than 19 inches of rain from the storm
  • Drowning in freshwater flooding was the leading cause of the 57 deaths attributed to the hurricane
© Provided by The Weather Network

HURRICANE FRAN - September 1996

  • Category 3 at landfall, with 185 km/h winds
  • Rainfall totals in excess of 6 inches were common along path
  • 21 fatalities in North Carolina alone, mainly related to flash flooding
  • Track was very similar to the one forecast for Florence.
© Provided by The Weather Network

HURRICANE HAZEL - October 1954

  • Category 4 at landfall, winds near 212 km/h
  • Left only 5 of more than 350 buildings in Long Beach, North Carolina, standing
  • Responsible for 81 deaths in Ontario -- the deadliest natural disaster in Canadian history*
  • Killed an estimated 400 people in Haiti before turning north to make landfall on the North Carolina/South Carolina border
© Provided by The Weather Network

HURRICANE HUGO - September 1989

  • Category 4 at landfall, with winds in excess of 220 km/h
  • Maximum storm surge higher than 20 feet (6.2 metres) near Charleston, South Carolina
  • Hugo remained fast-moving after landfall, dropping only moderate rainfall along its path
  • More than 3,300 single family homes destroyed in South Carolina, with a further 18,000+ sustaining major damage
  • Was, at the time, the costliest hurricane in U.S. history
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COMPARING FLORENCE AND HER PREDECESSORS - ANOTHER MONSTER?

Even if Hurricane Florence were to hit the exact same spot as one of its forerunners, the specific impacts from this latest storm will result from a complex interaction of the atmospheric conditions around it. The key things to watch from this system will be the winds, the storm surge, and the rain. While locally heavy rain is a feature of any tropical system, the chance that the storm will slow as it nears the coast raises the risk of extreme accumulations, as well as catastrophic flash and freshwater flooding.

*Note: It's important to recall that zoning laws and building codes have changed significantly in Toronto since the time of Hazel; a similar disaster is unlikely.


WATCH BELOW: HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS - WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

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With files from Reuters

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