Packing maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (209 kph), the storm was due to gain even greater strength before making landfall early on Thursday, bringing heavy rains with the potential to unleash widespread, severe flooding, prompting evacuations of more than 1 million people to higher ground, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.
"This is a serious storm and it's going to effect the entire state", Northam told a news conference.
The storm's potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons. People living well inland should prepare to lose power and anticipate flooding and other hazards, he warned.
"Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you", Gerst said. "When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the centre".
A satellite image shows Hurricane Florence spinning in the Atlantic Ocean Monday morning, September 10, 2018. At that point the storm was centered about 1,170 miles (1,880 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, the NHC said.
"Storm-force winds" are expected to hit North Carolina beginning Thursday morning, and some eastern counties could see as much as 12 inches of rain in the four days that follow, the National Weather Service said in its Monday morning update.
And the timing couldn't be more apt: Monday was the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, when storm activity has historically been at its highest.
As of the 5am update from the National Hurricane Center, Florence is still a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and gusts 160-170 miles per hour.
Beyond the damage from wind and high surf, Hurricane Florence is predicted to slow over the Carolinas where it may dump up to 30 inches of rain over much of North and SC.
Trump said in a Twitter message he has spoken to the governors of North and SC and Virginia, adding: "Federal government stands by, ready to assist".
On Monday night, Cooper said North Carolina has been granted a Federal Disaster Declaration for Hurricane Florence which will speed federal aid to our state.
Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools announced they are not altering their schedule for Tuesday and will continue to monitor conditions.
Hurricanes Florence, Helene, and Isaac are all now brewing in the Atlantic Ocean.
Hurricane Florence has slightly increased in speed as it heads toward the U.S. East Coast.
Hurricane Isaac - which late on Sunday became the fifth hurricane of the season - is heading west towards the Caribbean.
"Because of the depth and extent of our team's expertise, we can meet the needs of not only Texans, but our fellow citizens in other parts of the country", said Chuck Jones, TX-TF1 Operations Chief.
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