Florence pummels the Carolinas

By Brian Ries, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Paul P. Murphy and Eric Levenson, CNN

Updated 8:11 a.m. ET, September 17, 2018
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5:07 p.m. ET, September 14, 2018

Trump: We are totally prepared for Hurricane Florence

President Trump just had a meeting with Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials as Hurricane Florence continues to barrel toward the East Coast.

The President said the US is "ready as anybody has ever been" for the storm.

"The safety of American people is my absolute highest priority. We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared. We're ready," he said. "We're as ready as anybody has ever been."

Trump added that this hurricane will be "a very large one, far larger than we've seen in perhaps decades."

"Again, they haven't seen anything like what's coming at us in 25, 30 years. Maybe ever," Trump said.

Watch more:

3:44 p.m. ET, September 11, 2018

The 5 categories of hurricanes, explained

From CNN's Judson Jones

Hurricane Florence is a currently a Category 4 storm, but it may continue to fluctuate in intensity as it moves closer to landfall.

Here's why categories matter: Meteorologists use the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to measure a hurricane's strength.

The system divides storms into five categories:

  • Category 1: Winds 74 to 95 mph (Minor damage)
  • Category 2: Winds 96 to 110 mph (Extensive damage — Can uproot trees and break windows)
  • Category 3: Winds 111 to 129 mph (Devastating — Can break windows and doors)
  • Category 4: Winds 130 to 156 mph (Catastrophic damage — Can tear off roofs)
  • Category 5: Winds 157 mph or higher (The absolute worst and can level houses and destroy buildings)

This animation shows what each category of storm is like:

5:07 p.m. ET, September 14, 2018

South Carolina congressman: Hurricane Florence is a beast and it is headed right at us

South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice is not sticking around for Hurricane Florence to make landfall.

The Republican lawmaker plans on leaving the evacuation zone because of the dangers the storm could bring. He's hoping others will do the same.

"This is a massive, powerful, destructive, devastating beast and it is headed right at us," Rice said, while speaking to CNN in Myrtle Beach.

Watch more:

2:45 p.m. ET, September 11, 2018

He plans to hunker down during the storm with his pet parrot

Jim Darling and his parrot, Maximus, are planning to ride out the massive Category 4 storm, which is expected to hit the Carolinas Thursday.

"I'd rather just be at home, then stuck in a hotel somewhere," he told CNN on Tuesday while he was out shopping for supplies in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

State and local authorities are urging residents to leave some coastal areas before the dangerous storm makes landfall.

Despite the warnings, Darling, who's originally from Boston, said he faced worse storms in the past and was prepared to hunker down at his home. He stocked up on water, batteries, food and milk ahead of Hurricane Florence.

"I am not really worried about it. I won't be calling anybody to help me out anyhow, I can take care of it myself," he said.

2:21 p.m. ET, September 11, 2018

Here's the latest hurricane forecast update

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released an updated forecast for Hurricane Florence.

Parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia remain under a hurricane watch.

The next update will come at 5 p.m. ET. You can also track the hurricane with CNN's storm tracker.

5:06 p.m. ET, September 14, 2018

North Carolina governor: Don't bet your life on riding out a monster

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, while announcing mandatory evacuations for the state's barrier islands, urged residents to heed the orders.

"This storm is a monster," he said. "Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don't bet your life on riding out a monster."

He continued: "The time to hope Hurricane Florence away is gone."

Watch more:

1:54 p.m. ET, September 11, 2018

Nearly 1.5 million people are under mandatory evacuation orders

Approximately 1,473,340 people were under mandatory evacuation orders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, ahead of Hurricane Florence.

This does not include what are likely large tourist numbers as well.

Here's a breakdown for each state:

  • North Carolina: 193,661 residents are currently under mandatory evacuation orders.
  • South Carolina: Five counties currently under mandatory evacuation. That's approximately 1,039,679 residents.
  • Virginia: Portion of Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, and Norfolk are under mandatory evacuation, which is about 240,000 residents, according to state officials.
1:46 p.m. ET, September 11, 2018

How Hurricane Florence is impacting train travel

Amtrak announced this morning that it would adjust its service schedule along the East Coast ahead of Hurricane Florence.

Three train lines canceled service between Wednesday and Sunday:

  • Auto Train, which runs form Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford, Florida (trains 52 and 53)          
  • Silver Meteor, which runs from New York City to Miami (trains 97 and 98) 
  • Crescent, which runs between New York City and New Orleans (trains 19 and 20)

More trains are canceled for Thursday until Sunday:

  • Carolinian, which runs between New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina, trains (trains 79 and 80)
  • Piedmont, from Raleigh to Charlotte in North Carolina (trains 73 to 78)

More lines will have modified service. Some lines will only make certain stops, with many only operating north of Washington, DC.

Here's the full breakdown from Amtrak:

1:24 p.m. ET, September 11, 2018

Utility crews from as far as Oklahoma are rolling out to assist

Hurricane Florence is still offshore, but electric companies are already sending help to the states in its projected path.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric told CNN that some 79 line crew members and support personnel, in addition to 42 trucks, rolled out of Oklahoma City today and headed to Raleigh, North Carolina.