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Tropical Weather North Carolina

Storefronts have wood paneling installed over windows, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in New Bern, N.C., as a precaution against storm damage from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

Hurricane Florence roared toward the Southeast as officials warned the more than 1 million people in its path to get out of the way or face its wrath.

Florence is a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 mph, and is forecast to approach the coastline of the Carolinas by Friday, the National Weather Service said.

When it reaches the coastline, it could sit around for days, unloading life-threatening storm surge, dangerous winds and flooding rain.

"This storm is ... nothing like you've ever seen," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. "Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don't bet your life on riding out a monster."

Florence is one of the strongest hurricanes on the eastern seaboard in decades, and will bring a triple threat of dangerous storm surge, flooding and hurricane-force winds in parts of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states.

More than 1 million people are under mandatory evacuations in the Carolinas and Virginia, and about 30 million across the Southeast will be affected if the forecast holds, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.

The National Weather Service issued an ominous warning.

"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd and Matthew," it said. "I can't emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm."

Latest developments

• Shifting focus: The effects of the hurricane will be felt hundreds of miles away, including in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia.

• Still moving: By Wednesday morning, the storm was 575 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina. It had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.

• Warnings and alerts: The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina. Hurricane warnings are issued 36 hours before tropical storm force winds hit the areas.

•'Extremely dangerous': Florence's weakening is expected Thursday, but it's still forecast to be "an extremely dangerous major hurricane."

• Rain and storm surges: Life-threatening storm surges -- up to 13 feet -- are expected along the coasts. Up to 35 inches of rain could fall through early next week over parts of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states.

Amanda St. Amand • 314-340-8201

@mandystlpd on Twitter

astamand@post-dispatch.com

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