Over a thousand flights have been cancelled, cruise ships have been rerouted and over one million residents have been evacuated as the hurricane – described as a “Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast” prepares to strike tonight.
North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland and Columbia (Washington DC) have all declared states of emergency.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now updated their travel advice to east coast states for anyone already in the area or intending to travel there.
The FCO warn of “life-threatening weather conditions” in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, “with potential effects in Maryland, the District of Columbia and eastern Georgia.”
“Tropical storm winds are expected in coastal areas of North and South Carolina from Thursday 13 September, with major hurricane conditions likely to arrive on Friday 14 September and lasting through Saturday 15 September,” stated the FCO site.
“Tropical storm conditions may prevail in coastal and inland regions through Monday 17 September.”
Hurricane Florence is expected to bring “widespread flash flooding, storm surge in coastal areas, and strong winds capable of damaging property and infrastructure.”
“North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia have issued mandatory evacuation orders for some coastal areas,” said the FCO.
They advise following the advice of local authorities if you’re in the affected areas.
“Monitor local and national news and social media for updates and more information,” cautioned the FCO.
“If you have planned travel to the region before 15 September, you should keep your plans under close review and be prepared to amend or postpone them.
“Keep in contact with your tour operator or transport/accommodation provider as appropriate.”
Hurricane Florence’s centre is most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina by late Thursday or early Friday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Forecasters predict the storm will linger near the coast of the Carolinas from Thursday night to Saturday, carrying days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from South Carolina to Virginia.
AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said: “If Florence fails to move inland right away, it could remain as a hurricane or major hurricane much longer than usual, due to proximity to warm ocean water.”
Nationwide, more than 1,245 flights have been cancelled through Friday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com.
Southwest Airlines have suspended all flights out of Charlotte, North Carolina until at least Friday night.
Charleston International Airport closed at 11.50pm on Wednesday night and will remain shut “at least through Friday.” Wilmington, Jacksonville, New Bern and Pitt-Greenville airports are also all closed.
Myrtle Beach International Airport will remain open although the last scheduled flight departed at 5:47am this morning.
Airlines in the US that fly to and from the affected regions have allowed passengers to change their flight free of charge.
Additionally, Delta – which has cancelled approximately 85 flights today – has added 1,200 seats via extra flights and upsized aircraft in the storm’s path to help resents leave the area ahead of the storm.
Cruise ships up and down the east coast have been forced to change their itineraries to protect their passengers.