Up to a million people have already left or are expected to leave areas of North and South Carolina and Virginia which are likely to be pummeled by Hurricane Florence, which is projected to make landfall on Thursday. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said at a Monday afternoon news conference that the lanes of two major divided highways — Interstate 26 and U.S. 501 — would be reversed to make them one-way, carrying traffic only away from the coast, and that two other routes might also be reversed if needed. Gov. McMaster and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday issued mandatory evacuation orders for many residents. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also called for a state of emergency in preparation for storm flooding. Florence was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday, meaning that its maximum-sustained wind speeds are approaching 130 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center said Monday night that the hurricane could grow close to a Category 5. Forecasters say that the storm is expected to fluctuate in strength in the coming days but it will be “a dangerous storm by the time it reaches the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.”
Earlier, The Virginian-Pilot reported that nearly 30 U.S. Navy ships will depart from Virginia on Monday to avoid damage from the projected arrival of the hurricane. “Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway,” U.S. Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady said in a press release. Meanwhile, the states most likely to be hit by Florence are preparing for the storm to strike: Some areas, including North Carolina’s Dare County, already have mandatory evacuation orders; residents of other regions have been cautioned to stock up on emergency supplies.