"It's not just the coast", Graham said.
It was picking up speed over the Atlantic's warm waters, causing concerns about landfall and flooding from heavy rains afterward, possibly late Thursday or Friday.
"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", McMaster said. In North Carolina the Outer Banks and in SC as of noon Tuesday - mandatory evacuations in eight coastal counties.
"If the hurricane miraculously, overnight, decides to go somewhere else, we can take corrective action", he said, saying it was easier to "stand down" state resources than have them "stand up" at a moment's notice.
McMaster said storm surge could reach as high as 10 feet (3 meters) and estimates 1 million residents will be leaving the coast.
North and SC and Virginia have already declared states of emergency, and officials have begun evacuations in North Carolina. "North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously, and you should too".
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Up to 30 inches of rain could fall in isolated pockets across North Carolina, Virginia and northern SC through Saturday.
"All of the evidence points to an extreme disaster in the making in the mid-East Coast/Carolina region", said Bryan Norcross, a senior hurricane specialist with the Weather Channel. "We live paycheck to paycheck, being a military family, and it's four days until payday". It was not immediately clear how many people were being evacuated.
Similar scenes were repeated up and down the US East Coast, from Virginia to Savannah, Georgia.
The picture show began earlier in the week.
Many newcomers have moved to the coast in the almost 19 years since the last strong hurricane - Floyd - threatened the area.
Some tourists and residents were still outside enjoying pleasant weather as forecasters said computer models narrowed the grim target with clearer consensus.
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Forecasters said Florence could become an extremely risky major hurricane sometime Monday and remain that way for days.
South Carolina Emergency Management will open their emergency shelters on Tuesday based on need.
If a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) does make landfall along the Southeast coast, the rarity of such an event is relevant.
"Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends". "Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed".
Governors in the Carolinas and Virginia already had declared emergencies, and some sought federal aid as well.
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, near the shore, canceled its upcoming alumni weekend and all classes starting at noon Monday, encouraging its students to leave campus for a safer location. People were told to prepare to evacuate communities up and down a stretch of coastline already identified as particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change. Hugo in 1989 was the one before that and was a Category 4 at landfall.
Hurricanes Helene and Isaac are not expected to hit the United States mainland. Cooper sent a letter Monday morning to President Donald Trump with a request. She said her house, built in 2009, is on a ridge and was built to withstand a hurricane, but even the most secure homes could be surrounded by water, or penetrated by wind-launched debris. In September of 1998 there were 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic at the same time.
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