ADDS COMMENTS FROM FEMA; TRUMP IN GRAFS 8-10
By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) – Hurricane Florence continued its path towards the U.S. on Tuesday with the potential to cause catastrophic damage to the coasts of the mid-Atlantic and southeastern regions, according to officials.
More than 1 million people have been issued evacuation orders along the coastal areas of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, as the storm is not expected to weaken until it makes landfall Thursday in the Carolinas.
Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency in Washington D.C. as the city prepared for the storm. Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and North Carolina have all declared states of emergencies.
"We want residents to prepare accordingly. Get to the grocery store. Make sure you have your medications. Make sure you have flashlights and batteries," Bowser said.
Forecasts expect the Florence to hit the Carolinas and stall, with rainfall expected to reach 20 inches or more in some areas.
Florence is currently at a Category 4 level, the second highest classification on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with winds currently at 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour).
If it remains at Category 4, Florence would be one the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in the continental U.S. this far north.
"This has an opportunity of being a devastating storm. The power is going to be off for weeks and you're going to be displaced from your home and the coastal areas," Brock Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told reporters alongside U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House.
Trump encouraged residents in the path of the storms to take precautions. He said that the federal government was prepared to spend whatever was necessary and make every preparation possible for the storm.
Trump said the storm will be “tremendously big and tremendously wet — tremendous amount of water.”
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the storm is expected to regain strength Tuesday and "is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through landfall".
Winds are expected to pick up and peak at around 150 mph (241 kph), just shy of Category 5 status.
"This is a dangerous storm, this storm will and has the potential to cause loss of life," said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator of FEMA.
Florence is one of three storms currently in the Atlantic.