MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Florence has begun to batter the Carolina coast, and she's not going away anytime soon. Outer bands from the hurricane are now lashing land , at least a full day before the National Hurricane Center expects the slow-moving storm's eye to blow ashore around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Officials say people refusing to evacuate could end up alone, drenched and in the dark, as rescue crews won't go out to help in winds above 50 mph (80 kph).
BY THE NUMBERS
—Size: Hurricane-force winds extend up to 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the center, and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 195 miles (315 kilometers). Overall, Florence is about 400 miles (644 kilometers) wide.
—Rainfall: parts of the Carolinas could see 20 inches (50 centimeters) to 30 inches (76 centimeters), with isolated areas getting 40 inches (101 centimeters), over seven days along the coast
—Storm surge: up to 11 feet (3.4 meters) and seawaters could push inland 2 miles (3 kilometers), depending on how long Florence lingers
—Intensity: maximum sustained winds at 105 mph (169 kph) down from a peak of 140 mph (225 kph) but still extremely dangerous
—Get out: 1.7 million people under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders, and more than 10 million people live in places currently under storm watches or warnings
—Grounded: Nearly 1,500 flights canceled through Saturday
—Going dark: Duke Energy anticipates 1 million to 3 million homes and businesses losing power
FACES OF FLORENCE
Images captured by Associated Press journalists show the angst of evacuation and solitary beachgoers finding moments of calm before the storm.
HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER STORM
Florence has it all : Hot ocean temperatures that fuel hurricanes. Favorable wind patterns. Higher sea levels that exacerbate storm surge. Cloud cover that could encompass multiple states. And an unusual combination of other weather systems that likely will stall Florence when it hits land, allowing it to sit for days and dump huge amounts of rain.
WHAT TRUMP SAID
Worried about how the government will respond to Hurricane Florence's devastation? President Donald Trump said there was nothing to fear because his administration did such good work responding to last year's storms - including Hurricane Maria, which led to the deaths of 2,975 people in Puerto Rico in the six months after the storm, according to an estimate by George Washington University. In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Trump said the government "got A Pluses" for storm recovery in Texas and Florida and "did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico." His remarks fell flat in Puerto Rico where islanders are continuing to struggle to recover a year after the Category 4 storm. Trump doubled down Thursday morning , arguing without evidence that Maria's death toll estimate in Puerto Rico is wrong and calling it a plot by Democrats to make him "look as bad as possible."
Florence is headed straight for some of the most well-known military bases in the country. The Navy, Air Force and Army have been moving people, ships and aircrafts out of harm's way, though evacuations were not mandatory at bases such as Camp Lejeune . The commanding general says anyone remaining on base will have food, water and protection despite being in the projected path of the storm.
Businesses across the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia will likely suffer financial losses from the approaching storm, with ports closing, farmers moving their livestock and expected power outages that could last for weeks. The losses won't be easily or quickly overcome. But it could have been worse: Labor Day marked the end of the peak tourism season in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and other coastal getaways. There are now fewer tourists to send away.
North Carolina has roughly 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms containing more than 9 million hogs. Florence's heavy rains could cause an environmental disaster if waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites washes into homes or threatens drinking water supplies. When Hurricane Floyd made landfall near Cape Fear in 1999 as a Category 2 storm, bloated carcasses of hundreds of thousands of hogs, chickens and other drowned livestock bobbed in a nose-stinging soup of fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizer and gasoline so toxic that fish flopped helplessly to escape it.
Elder relatives carry as much weight as meteorologists in a tight-knit community of slave descendants on the South Carolina coast. St. Helena Island near the South Carolina-Georgia line is used to riding out big storms — from one that killed an estimated 2,000 people in 1893 to Tropical Storm Irma last year. But barber Josh Dais says the island's 5,000 residents now are trying to decide whether to flee ahead of Hurricane Florence. He says: "If Mama and Grandma are going, then a lot of people are leaving." Smaller enclaves of Gullah, referred to as Geechee in some areas, are scattered along the Southeast coast from North Carolina to Florida.
Some Florence evacuees are steering toward Bristol Motor Speedway near the Tennessee-Virginia border and Atlanta Motor Speedway , where campgrounds have been opened for people fleeing the storm. At least two dozen utility trucks gathered near Charlotte Motor Speedway to prepare to move in and start restoring power as soon as conditions are safe.
What would you take if a major hurricane was threatening to inundate or pull apart your home? One North Carolina woman packed flowers to leave on her son's grave. Evacuees also loaded up their vehicles with extra gas cans, their pets, coolers filled with sandwich meat, family photographs and blankets. The shopping list for people who have decided to ride out the storm at home: plywood to board up their windows, sandbags, bilge pumps, generators, trash bags, potato chips, bottled water and wine.
CHICKENS IN HOME
Some Virginian neighbors decided to be cooped up with their chickens and other pets as Florence approaches. The utility room of John Hembree and Scot Perkins' Chesapeake home has become a refuge for their neighbor's birds as well as their own chickens, three dogs, turtle and cat. The couple said they would have had to travel too far inland to find a hotel that would have accepted their animals as guests.
Aside from safety concerns, Atlantic Coast Conference schools face scheduling obstacles , monetary implications and bowl considerations. The list of canceled football games included No. 13 Virginia Tech's home game against East Carolina, No. 14 West Virginia's trip to North Carolina State and No. 18 UCF's visit to North Carolina. Virginia has moved its Saturday home game against Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee. Presbyterian has cancelled its football game with Stetson on Saturday.
- Watch live web cams: Hurricane Florence slams the eastern coast
- Watch live: Hurricane Michael makes 'catastrophic' landfall
- Watch: The Decorah eagle cam
- UPDATE: Four reported dead from Hurricane Florence
- Drivers getting dash cams
- UPDATE: Hurricane Florence taking aim at southeast U.S.
- 'Big and vicious': Hurricane Florence closes in on Carolinas
- How to help in the Hurricane Florence relief effort
- Mistrial in eastern Iowa murder
- Watch live: President Trump impeachment hearings continue