Storm’s path shifts south; FEMA says it’s ready de­spite money trans­fer.

‘This is go­ing to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast,’ FEMA de­clares

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doug Stan­glin and John Ba­con USA TODAY Con­tribut­ing: Led­yard King, Sean Ross­man and Ben Mutz­abaugh, USA TODAY; Daniel Gross, The Greenville News

An im­mensely pow­er­ful Hurricane Florence roared closer to the East Coast on Wed­nes­day be­fore the storm was fore­cast to take a dan­ger­ous turn south and stall along the edge of North Carolina and South Carolina – bom­bard­ing the area with tor­ren­tial rain, high winds and deadly storm surge Thurs­day through Satur­day.

Hurricane winds could linger for 24 hours or more, sweep­ing away trees and power lines while dump­ing 20 to 30 inches of rain in some coastal ar­eas, the Na­tional Hurricane Cen­ter said. Iso­lated to­tals of 40 inches are pos­si­ble.

The Cat­e­gory 3 storm was driv­ing sus­tained winds of 125 mph and cre­at­ing waves up to 83 feet, the hurricane cen­ter said. Florence was ex­pected to reach the Caroli­nas overnight Thurs­day.

More than 1 mil­lion peo­ple have been or­dered to evac­u­ate coastal ar­eas. Duke En­ergy warned that up to 75 per­cent of its 4 mil­lion cus­tomers in the Caroli­nas could lose power.

“This is not go­ing to be a glanc­ing blow,” Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency’s Jeff Byard said. “This is go­ing to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”

The fore­cast Tues­day had called for a move north af­ter hit­ting the coast. The track changed Wed­nes­day.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in Wilm­ing­ton said the lat­est mod­els show Florence reach­ing a high-pres­sure ridge over the east­ern USA, stalling and then mov­ing to­ward South Carolina. The of­fice warned that Florence “will likely be the storm of a life­time for por­tions of the Carolina coast.”

The south­ern turn brings Ge­or­gia into the path of foul weather, and Gov. Nathan Deal de­clared an emer­gency Wed­nes­day for all 159 coun­ties. But North Carolina re­mained a pri­mary tar­get, and Gov. Roy Cooper has or­dered an un­prece­dented evac­u­a­tion of the state’s bar­rier is­lands.

Weather Chan­nel me­te­o­rol­o­gist Greg Pos­tel said Florence has an un­usual fore­cast track. “I’ve never seen any­thing like this,” he said.

Ryan Maue, a weather.us me­te­o­rol­o­gist who said Florence is fore­cast to dump about 10 tril­lion gal­lons of wa­ter on the Caroli­nas, called the fore­cast “bizarre” and said “the fore­cast af­ter 72 hours is cer­tainly a chal­lenge ... and a night­mare.”

The new track could make a tremen­dous dif­fer­ence to res­i­dents of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., metro area and points north. Alan Rep­pert, a se­nior me­te­o­rol­o­gist for Ac­cuWeather, said ar­eas around Richmond, Vir­ginia, could see 8 inches of rain. Wash­ing­ton, 100 miles to the north, might get only an inch.

Na­tion­wide, more than 575 flights have been can­celed from Wed­nes­day through Fri­day, flight-track­ing ser­vice FlightAware re­ported.

Am­trak can­celed some trains and mod­i­fied ser­vice for oth­ers in the re­gion and an­nounced its North­east Re­gional ser­vice will not run to Vir­ginia des­ti­na­tions south of Wash­ing­ton from Wed­nes­day through Sun­day.

JACK GRUBER/USA TODAY

Kim­berly John­son works to board the win­dows and doors of Tommy Con­don's Restau­rant on Mar­ket Street in down­town Charleston, S.C., as res­i­dents pre­pare for Hurricane Florence to make land­fall along the East Coast.

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