WILMINGTON, N.C. - 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.
Closing in with terrifying winds of 130 mph and potentially catastrophic rain and storm surge, Florence is expected to blow ashore Saturday morning along the North Carolina-South Carolina line, the National Hurricane Center said.
While some of the computer forecasting models conflicted, the latest projections more or less showed the storm shifting southward and westward in a way that suddenly put more of South Carolina in danger and imperiled Georgia, too.
At the White House, President Donald Trump urged people to “get out of its way.”
“Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one,” he said.
With the change in the forecast, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued an emergency declaration for the entire state to ease regulations on trucks hauling gasoline and relief supplies, and asked people to pray for those in Florence’s path. North and South Carolina and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week.
The shift in the projected track had areas that once thought they were out of range worried. In South Carolina, Beaufort County Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case.
“We’ve had our lessons. Now it might be time for the exam,” Baxley said late in the morning.
As of 11 a.m., the Category 4 storm was centered 485 miles southeast of Wilmington, moving at 15 mph with the potential for 1 to 3 feet of rain in places - enough to touch off catastrophic flooding and an environmental disaster, too, if the water inundates the region’s many industrial waste sites and hog manure ponds.
The National Hurricane Center’s projected track had Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast starting Thursday night before finally blowing ashore.