Hurricane Florence is producing waves as high as 83 feet

A close-up view of the eye of Hurricane Florence

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"Between the lines: Hurricane Florence could become the strongest hurricane on record to strike so far north if it makes landfall north of the border between SC and North Carolina as a Category 4 or 5 storm".

People fleeing North and SC clogged coastal highways early Wednesday as Hurricane Florence, a monster Category 4 storm, bore down on the U.S. east coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.

Maximum sustained winds are approaching 130mph, with higher gusts expected.

Those warily watching Florence have compared it to Hurricanes Fran and Hugo, which pummeled North Carolina and SC, respectively, more than two decades ago.

"North Carolina, my message is clear", a grim Gov. Roy Cooper said at a briefing today.

The director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday issued a stark warning as Hurricane Florence takes aim at the southeast.

Timing: When Will Hurricane Florence Strike?

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Officials in at least one area that ordered an evacuation will be going to homes to ask people planning to ride it out for information on their next of kin, CNN reported Wednesday.

"Florence's peak winds have decreased slightly but the size of the wind field has increased", the NHC said in a 2:00 pm (1800 GMT) advisory.

If it stalls over land, downpours and flooding would be especially severe. The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the slower storm could bring as much as 40 inches of rain in places.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with retail tracking service GasBuddy, predicted shortages could occur at more than one in 10 petrol stations across North Carolina.

Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.

More tips on hurricane preparation can be found at the National Weather Service's website. For example, Bojangles (BOJA) and Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize(ADRNY) have more than 20% exposure to a landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina. All seven of North Carolina's ferry routes were shut down.

Described as a monster, the eye of Hurricane Florence continues to grow. Until we know how bad wind, power outages and flooding are, we won't know how much home and business fix will be needed. Shelters in the city were filling and some people were being bused inland to Raleigh, even though some residents there were told they might have to evacuate because of flooding.

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