According to the National Hurricane Center's 11 a.m. advisory on Monday, a "life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia coastlines, and a Storm Surge Watch will likely be issued for some of these areas by Tuesday morning..."
As of noon ET Monday, Florence was moving at 13 mph, some 575 miles south-southeast of Bermuda the hurricane center said.
A hurricane hunter plane found Florence strengthening quickly, reaching top winds of 85 miles per hour (140 kph) Sunday evening after crossing the 74 miles per hour threshold from tropical storm to a hurricane earlier in the day.
Maximum sustained winds were nearly 85 miles per hour Monday morning, the hurricane center said.
In 1989, Hurricane Hugo grew to a Category 4 storm before coming ashore near Charleston, South Carolina, where it caused about $14.1 billion in damage when adjusted for inflation, making it the 13th costliest US storm, according to Hurricane Center records.
"The bottom line is that there is high confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely risky hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity", the NHC said.
Hurricane Isaac, much farther out to sea, has become the 5th named hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season, the hurricane center added.
"With the possibility that Tropical Storm (sic) Florence could make landfall in SC, likely as a hurricane, our people have already started making preparations".
"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm anxious about the rain and tornadoes too", Roberts said.
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"Ships will be directed to areas of the Atlantic where they will be best postured for storm avoidance", the release states.
Florence strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane on Monday. "But on rare occasions, the steering patterns can line up such that a storm slips into a dead zone between troughs and ridges".
The storm "is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances", South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said in issuing his state's emergency declaration.
Hurricane-force winds are extending up to 65 kilometres from the storm's centre, while tropical-storm-force winds are blowing out at up to 240 kilometres. "We're just a strip of land - we're a barrier island", she said.
If Florence tracks northward toward Greensboro, he said, Charlotte could still see significant winds.
The governor of neighboring North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination, and parts of coastal Dare County, while a state of emergency was declared in Virginia.
Hurricane Olivia has triggered tropical storm warnings in Hawaii, where it will likely make landfall by Tuesday or Wednesday, forecasters say.