MINUTE-BY-MINUTE: Hurricane warnings issued for Carolina coast ahead of Florence

Latest Florence outlook:

  • Hurricane Florence is a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds and moving toward the coast at 17 mph
  • After undergoing an eyewall replacement Tuesday, the storm could strengthen to a Category 5 in the next day or so
  • Based on the most recent track, the Carolina coast will see hurricane-force winds, major storm surge, and widespread flooding from Florence
  • Tuesday afternoon, hurricane warnings were issued along the coast from the Grand Stand to the Outer Banks
  • Landfall looks to be early Friday near Wilmington
  • Florence will make landfall as at least a Category 3 hurricane
  • Highest impact areas will be from Myrtle Beach northward to the Outer Banks, with dangerous currents and surf
  • The latest track has the storm taking an inland path through the weekend with a slight shift south, putting Charlotte closer to the center of what's left of the circulation
  • The Charlotte-area will start to see the effects late Friday with bands of very heavy rain and heavy flooding threats -- especially for our eastern counties
  • The worst-case scenario for Charlotte includes winds faster than 40 mph and more than six inches of rain

>> Watch the video below for Severe Weather Center 9's latest forecast update on Hurricane Florence.

>> We'll have team coverage from all angles to get you ready for Florence's likely impact on the Carolinas, on Eyewitness News.

>> Stay updated on the storm and its latest track by downloading our weather app.

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[15 safety tips that could save your life during a hurricane]

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Hurricane content:

[CLICK HERE to catch up on Monday's Hurricane Florence coverage]

[SPECIAL SECTION: Tracking the Tropics]


9 p.m.

Governor Roy Cooper said shelters across the state are opening to help people displaced by evacuations. You can find a full list here.

Prisons and jails in vulnerable areas are evacuating and long-term care facilities have been urged to work with emergency management officials to make sure patients stay safe.

The state has announced the closures of state parks, museums and other sites. For a full list click here.

The governor also said he has authorized providing more North Carolina National Guard soldiers for Florence response. The 2,400 additional soldiers will report for duty by 6 p.m. Wednesday on top of the 200 already activated.

The state has an information line open to help people find nearby shelter and answer any other questions related to Florence. People can dial 2-1-1 or 888-892-1162 to be connected with resources.

7:20 p.m.

North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson released information for educators Tuesday night ahead of Hurricane Florence.

He provided this link that provides a list of districts already closed and other information related to schools across the state.

5 p.m.

Channel 9 has crews spread along the Carolina coast monitoring conditions.

There were lines forming at several gas stations and some have already run out of fuel.

Many homeowners along the beaches told us they aren’t going to try and ride this storm out like in years past.

"All the years I've seen hurricanes come through, people laugh and joke about it, but the customers I've been talking to the last couple of days have pure worry on their face,” a nearby worker, Ron O’Neill, said. “People are scared."


4:30 p.m.

Airbnb activated its “Open Homes Program” to help residents who were evacuated because of Florence in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

The program helps residents who have been displaced as well as relief workers volunteers. It allows them to find temporary accommodations with Airbnb hosts who are opening their homes free of charge.

Click here to learn more.


4:15 p.m.

UNC Charlotte has canceled classes beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday ahead of Florence.

All university activities will also be canceled starting at 8 a.m. Thursday until 11:59 p.m. Friday.


3:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the safety of the American people is his "absolute highest priority" as Hurricane Florence takes aim at portions of the East Coast.

Trump was being briefed by the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Oval Office on Tuesday.

He says the federal government is ready to respond to the Category 4 storm.

FEMA administrator Brock Long is warning that the hurricane will be a "devastating event" and urging Americans to evacuate if they've been asked to leave their homes. He says electric power could be out for weeks.

Trump has declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, and canceled campaign events Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the storm.

[WATCH: Interactive Radar]

[LINK: National Hurricane Center monitoring the tropics]


1:30 p.m.

As Hurricane Florence continues to approach the Carolina coast, the Charlotte Motor Speedway announced it will be welcoming evacuees onto its property to ride out the storm.

CLICK HERE to read more.


1:10 p.m.

The University of North Carolina's football game scheduled for Saturday against UCF will not be played due to Hurricane Florence. All tickets for the game that were purchased through Carolina Athletics will be automatically refunded.

North Carolina State will also not play their game this weekend against West Virginia because of the storm.


1 p.m.

Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a mandatory state evacuation for the barrier islands of North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Florence.

"Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different," Cooper said at a news conference. "The time to hope Florence goes away is gone."

Cooper went on to say Florence would likely stall over the state, bringing days of rain, calling the storm "extremely dangerous, life-threatening, and historic."

"The wind and waves will be like nothing you have ever seen," Cooper said.


12:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the federal government is "absolutely, totally prepared" for Hurricane Florence as it heads toward the Eastern Seaboard.

The president briefed reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday.

Trump has declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina ahead of the Category 4 hurricane, which frees up help from federal agencies.

He has also canceled campaign events Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the storm.

The president was meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency later Tuesday.


12:15 p.m.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is saying his state is "in the bulls-eye" of Hurricane Florence. The very center of that bulls-eye may be Camp Lejeune.

Authorities on the sprawling Marine Corps training base are in emergency mode, staging equipment and urging families on the base to build survival kits with the food and equipment needed to sustain themselves for 72 hours.

Mandatory coastal evacuations were in effect for civilians in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, but the military base posted on Facebook that different chains-of-command would decide whether to release non-essential personnel. Some military families are venting fears they won't be able to evacuate in time.


12:15 p.m.

Officials say they're taking steps to ensure safety at nuclear power plants in South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane nears the state.

Ryan Mosier of Duke Energy said the power company was closely monitoring Hurricane Florence and ensuring that emergency equipment is in working order.

Duke operates three nuclear stations in South Carolina, though none are along the coast. SCANA operates two reactors at a site just north of Columbia.

Mosier said each of Duke's sites has emergency generators for backup power, as well as pumps and other redundant systems and supplies of food and water for employees.

If forecasters predict any site will experience sustained winds of 73 mph or more, Mosier said operators will begin to shut down units at least two hours prior to impact.


11:30 a.m.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says he has lifted mandatory evacuation orders in three counties along the state's southern coast. McMaster made the announcement Tuesday as forecasters continued to show Hurricane Florence's projected track moving farther northward.

McMaster also said lane reversals would begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday on Interstate 26, an hour earlier than had been scheduled, allowing all lanes of the interstate to move westward, away from the coast.


10:55 a.m.

Forecasters say Florence will arrive on land as an extremely dangerous major hurricane by the end of the week.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Florence has maximum sustained winds near 130 mph. By 11 a.m. Tuesday, Florence was centered about 905 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west-northwest at 16 mph. Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday, then approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina.

Two other storms are spinning in the Atlantic as the 2018 hurricane season peaks: Tropical Storm Isaac is approaching the Caribbean, while Hurricane Helene is no threat to land over waters. As Isaac approaches the Caribbean, hurricane watches are in effect for Guadeloupe, Martinique and Dominica, while a tropical storm watch was issued for Antigua and Montserrat.


10:45 a.m.

South Carolina's governor has ordered more than a million people living along the state's coast to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence.

Gov. Henry McMaster says he's preparing the state for winds as powerful as Hurricane Hugo, which plowed inland nearly 30 years ago and caused devastating damage.

McMaster said on CNN Tuesday that officials are "taking nothing for granted" with Florence predicted to make landfall Thursday. The storm is so huge that South Carolina won't be spared even if it escapes the eye of the hurricane.

The evacuation order becomes mandatory at noon Tuesday, but cameras show traffic already backing up along the main interstate connecting Charleston and Columbia.


10:30 a.m.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham is warning that the "staggering" size of Florence means its impacts will be felt far and wide.

Forecasters say hurricane-force winds extend up to 40 miles from the center of Hurricane Florence, and tropical storm-force winds reach up to 150 miles from its eye.

That means the hurricane will be dumping rain over multiple East Coast states, and it's not just a coastal problem. With torrential rains in the Appalachian mountains, that water could easily cause flash floods.


10:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump is canceling a campaign rally in advance of Hurricane Florence's landfall.

His campaign says it's canceling a Thursday event in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where he had been scheduled to stump for the Republican senate candidate, state attorney general Josh Hawley.

The campaign said the event was scuttled out of safety concerns. It was the second rally Trump canceled this week due to the storm, following a Friday rally slated for Mississippi.

The massive hurricane is closing in on the Carolinas and Virginia and could cause disastrous weather as far as Pennsylvania and Ohio.


8 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says a new report from an Air Force Reserve Unit hurricane hunter aircraft indicates that Hurricane Florence's top sustained winds have decreased slightly to 130 mph, with higher gusts.

Florence is still a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to regain its top wind strength in the next day or so. It remains an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday night.

The 8 a.m. forecast changes the storm surge watch for the eastern United States, with the worst impact, a surge of up to 12 feet, expected on a stretch from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout in North Carolina. It says total rainfall could reach 30 inches in some places, prompting life-threatening flash flooding from South Carolina to Northern Virginia.


7:05 a.m.

Troopers in South Carolina have begun the process of closing I-26 eastbound, beginning at I-77 moving east toward Charleston, in anticipation of 12 p.m. evacuation and lane reversal.


6 a.m.

Hurricane watches are now in effect from Charleston through the Outer Banks.

[PHOTOS: People scramble for supplies at stores, clearing shelves]

With mandatory evacuations already issued for parts of three East Coast states, millions of Americans are preparing for what could become one of the most catastrophic hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard in decades.

Hurricane Florence has slightly increased in speed as it heads toward the U.S. East Coast.

The National Hurricane Center said Tuesday morning that Florence is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph and the storm will continue a slight increase in speed during the next couple of days.

The Miami-based center said the storm's center was located about 410 miles south of Bermuda and about 975 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina. Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 140 mph as it moved west-northwest at 13 mph.

Hurricane Florence is expected to strengthen and become a Category 5 storm Tuesday.

It's then forecast to close in on North or South Carolina on Thursday, hitting a stretch of coastline that's vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.

Severe Weather Center 9 says the storm may make landfall between Morehead City and Wilmington late Thursday night into Friday morning. 

Stay updated on the storm and its latest track by downloading our weather app.

"Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!" President Donald Trump tweeted Monday evening.

South Carolina's governor ordered the state's entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee. And Virginia's governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas, while some coastal counties in North Carolina have done the same.

The storm's first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as dangerous rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway.

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 dangerous conditions.

Channel 9 will have continuing coverage of Hurricane Florence and its potential impacts along the Carolina coast.

To receive the latest hurricane alerts, download the WSOCTV news app and tap the blue "Hurricanes" tag.

The storm's potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.

Airlines, including American and Southwest, have started letting passengers change travel plans that take them into the hurricane's possible path.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore. People living well inland should prepare to lose power and endure flooding and other hazards, he warned.

"It's not just the coast," Graham said. "When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the center."

A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 85 degrees, hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence's hurricane wind field was expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats.

By 11 p.m. Monday, Florence was centered about 1,085 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph. Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Two other storms were spinning in the Atlantic. Hurricane Isaac was expected to lose strength as it reaches the Caribbean, and Helene, much farther out to sea, may veer northward into the open ocean as the 2018 hurricane season reaches its peak.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Olivia triggered warnings for multiple Hawaiian islands as it blew west toward an arrival over the state as soon as late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Preparations for Florence were intensifying up and down the densely populated coast. Since reliable record-keeping began more than 150 years ago, North Carolina has been hit by only one Category 4 hurricane: Hazel, with 130 mph winds, in 1954.

The parking lot has been full for three days at the Ace Hardware store in coastal Calabash, North Carolina, where manager Tom Roberts said he sold 150 gas cans in two hours Monday, along with generators, plywood, rope, manual can openers, sand bags and a plethora of other items.

"I've been doing this since 1983," Roberts said as he completed an order for another 18-wheeler full of supplies. "This is the craziest one."

Many newcomers have moved to the coast in the nearly 19 years since the last strong hurricane - Floyd - threatened the area. Roberts said he's telling them to get out of town.

"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm worried about the rain and tornadoes too," Roberts said.


Several meteorologists said Florence could do what Hurricane Harvey did last year over Texas, dumping days of rain, although not quite as bad.

"I think this is very Harvey-esque," said University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy. "Normally, a landfalling tropical cyclone just keeps on going inland, gradually dissipating and raining itself out. But on rare occasions, the steering patterns can line up such that a storm slips into a dead zone between troughs and ridges."

On North Carolina's Outer Banks, Dawn Farrow Taylor, 50, was gathering photos and important documents and filling prescriptions Monday before heading inland. She grew up on the island chain, and says this will be only the second time she's evacuated.

"I don't think many of us have ever been through a Category 4. And out here we're so fragile. We're just a strip of land - we're a barrier island," she said.

>> Click the image below to download the WSOC weather app

In announcing his evacuation order, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said an estimated 1 million people would be fleeing the coast. Eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 heading into Charleston and U.S. 501 heading into Myrtle Beach will be reversed when the order takes effect.

An evacuation order from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam applies to about 245,000 people, including parts of the Hampton Roads area and Eastern Shore.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state was "in the bullseye" of the storm and urged people to "get ready now."

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