People who thought they were relatively safe from the onslaught of Hurricane Florence began boarding up and Georgia's governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday as uncertainty over the path of the monster storm spread worry along the Southeastern coast.
As of 2 p.m., the Category 3 storm was centered 435 miles (700 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, moving at 16 mph (26 kph), with the potential for 1 to 3 feet of rain in places - enough to touch off catastrophic flooding inland and an environmental disaster, too, if the water inundates the region's many industrial waste sites and hog manure ponds.
The National Hurricane Center said the hurricane's peak winds have decreased slightly to 125 mph but the size of the wind field has increased to outwards of 70 miles from the center.
The hurricane's storm surge - the wall of water it pushed in from the Atlantic - "overwhelmed" the town of New Bern at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.
It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.
Lt. Col. Lindy White, an Oklahoma National Guard spokeswoman, said officials from East Coast states are expected to request additional assistance in the days to come.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter.
Florence also blew down trees, including one that went through the roof of Kevin DiLoreto's home in Wilmington. "If we try to leave, we'll just get stuck in the rain". "Everybody laughs at the fact that this storm got downgraded. but I've never seen tree devastation this bad".
The News & Observer reports that the storm's path shifted early Wednesday and it is now bearing down on southern North Carolina and northern SC, where it could dump up to 40 inches of rain in places. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.
Wind speeds of risky Hurricane Florence remained at 130 miles per hour with the 11 a.m. It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.
"This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast".
"It looks heavy outside", she said.
Amtrak canceled its passenger rail service south of Washington, D.C., and there were almost 600 cancellations of flights arriving or departing from major airports in the Carolinas.
More than one million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools and factories were being shuttered.
Trojniar said she and her husband were packing up belongings and planned to stack sandbags around their single-floor home in Wilmington's Landfall neighborhood near the ocean before checking into a hotel to ride out the storm.