A state of emergency has been declared in three US states, as the east coast braces for the arrival of category five storm Florence.
The hurricane is gaining pace as it heads for the Carolinas, where 1.7million people have been told to evacuate.
Taking dead aim at the Carolinas, Storm Florence is likely to bring “life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding” when it sweeps in on Thursday and Friday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, saying the US government is “absolutely, totally prepared” for Florence.
At 11pm local time on Tuesday (4am BST Wednesday) the “monster” storm was centred 670 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph.
The National Hurricane Centre said it was a potentially catastrophic Category-4 storm, but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph or higher.
The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 foot of water in spots, projections showed.
Meanwhile the hurricane is forecast to dump one to two foot of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and farms.
Motorists were streaming inland on highways converted to one-way evacuation routes after forecasters and politicians pleaded with the public to take the warnings seriously.
“This storm is a monster. It’s big and it’s vicious. It is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane,” North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said.
He added: “The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”
More than 5.4 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches on the US East Coast, according to the NWS, and another four million people were under a tropical storm watch.
“This one really scares me,” National Hurricane Centre director Ken Graham said.
Federal officials begged residents to put together emergency kits and have a plan on where to go.
“This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks. It’s going to destroy infrastructure. It’s going to destroy homes,” said Jeff Byard, an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20in of rain, if not more, with as much as 10in elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington DC.
The storm could also to affect weather here in the UK, though the Met Office has said it is “uncertain” about what the impact could be.
Two other hurricanes, Helene and Isaac, are currently trailing Florence in the Atlantic and forecasters have warned that they could head for the UK.
Thankfully if they do, it’s highly unlikely that the winds will be hurricane strength.
Either way, rain is expected across the UK during the coming week.