West Point area could start to feel effects of Hurricane Florence Thursday

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Highways clogged with people fleeing North and SC early Wednesday as monstrous Category 4 Hurricane Florence rumbled toward the eastern U.S. as the biggest storm there in decades.

It is predicted to deliver tropical-storm-force winds by noon Thursday to North Carolina's coast, and hurricane-force winds and risky storm surges by late Thursday or early Friday.

National Hurricane Center now says tropical storm force winds "reasonable" for north Florida.

People who thought they were 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.

Long lines formed at service stations, and some started running out of gas as far west as Raleigh, with bright yellow bags, signs or rags placed over the pumps to show they were out of order.

Locals of one seaside resort in North Carolina are maintaining relative calm as they gird for Hurricane Florence. It's gaining strength and could even be upgraded to Category 5 before it makes landfall early Friday, according to forecasts.

Storm surge and hurricane warnings do not extend to Beaufort County, but that could change, said Michael Emlaw, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

"Residents in central North Carolina should be prepared to feel the impact of the storm from Thursday night through at least Monday due to threat of flooding and widespread and prolonged power outages", Gov. Cooper said. Hurricane warnings are issued 36 hours before tropical storm force winds hit the areas. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances. Florence could bring life-threatening storm surges, up to 13 feet.

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Hurricane Helene is heading north to open sea off the coast of the United States and now poses no danger to land after the storm hit cooler waters in the Atlantic. Up to 35 inches of rain could fall through early next week over parts of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states.

"Sea levels have risen in most places by about 1 foot over the past century".

Despite all that, 65-year-old Liz Browning Fox plans to ride the storm out in the Outer Banks village of Buxton, North Carolina, despite a mandatory evacuation order.

A photo of George Brown, 90, is pinned to his shirt along with personal information before he is evacuated with fellow residents from a healthcare home in Morehead City, N.C., on Wednesday as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast.

"Warming oceans, a more rapidly warming arctic, melting ice sheets are all contributing in various way to conditions like what we're observing now", Francis said.

Millions have been ordered to evacuate their homes as the storm rages closer to the mainland. "It's a big one".

"We've already been flooded three times, but it should be a completely different story this time around", he said.