The US state of Georgia declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Florence made its way across the Atlantic to the US southeastern coast. More than 1.5 million people have been told to leave their homes.
Storm surges up to 3.9 meters (13 feet), the possibility of tornados and almost a meter of rain in some areas of North and South Carolina were expected when Hurricane Florence makes landfall late Thursday.
Although the storm has been designated Category 2 rather than 4, emergency services were warning it could hit the coast with the force of a "Mike Tyson punch."
Early Wednesday afternoon in North Carolina, the storm was centered 700 kilometers (435 miles) off the coast, moving at 26 kph (16 mph) towards the US coastline.
Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on Wednesday: "This is not going to be a glancing blow," as he warned of power outages, road closures, infrastructure damage and potential loss of life.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said: "Florence is still forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it nears the US coast late Thursday and Friday."
Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the state of Georgia: "in light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall."
"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety," Deal said. "I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas."
Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington states have all already declared states of emergency ahead of the storm.
jm/rc (AP, AFP)