U.S. capital under state of emergency, evacuation ordered

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   OMINOUS Hurricane Florence is set to blast the US east coast

This is one considered by the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) as having sustained wind speeds of more than 157mph. Cape Lookout to Ocracoke Island could see 5 to 8 feet of water, experts say. A turn toward the northwest and then the north-northwest is forecast Wednesday and Thursday.

In preparation for the storm, the governments of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia have all declared states of emergency and are mobilizing resources.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper described the storm as "a monster". "It's big and it's vicious".

The GOES-East weather satellite, which keeps a constant eye on the East Coast and the Atlantic, has captured some breathtaking images of Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene approaching the Americas (in that order).

"Florence is rapidly strengthening this morning", the National Hurricane Center advisory said.

Hurricane Florence is now barreling across the Atlantic with winds of more than 140mph and is becoming dangerously close to being classified as a level 5 hurricane.

The NHC warned that hurricane force winds may extend 65 kilometers from the center and tropical-storm-force winds may reach 240 kilometers outward. It is passing several hundred miles south of Bermuda (now less than 1,000 miles from coastal North Carolina) and appears to be headed for an eventual landfall in southern sections of North Carolina later this week.

Cooper and his counterparts in neighbouring SC and Virginia ordered about 1 million people to evacuate coastal homes, including along the Outer Banks barrier islands that protect North Carolina's shore.

The National Hurricane Center will issue its next update on the storm at 11 a.m. EDT.

"The seas are going to get extremely rough and so any boating should be discouraged until this thing moves inland and the seas drop off this coming weekend".

The first significant impact will be from the hurricane force winds.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ordered evacuations in flood-prone areas in the Hampton Roads area, which is home to one of the busiest ports in the United States as well as the largest naval base in the world.

Rainfall could be up to 20in (50cm) in some areas. The county has yet to make official plans for shelter or evacuation because the path of the storm once it makes landfall is unknown.

The US Navy said it was preparing to send about 30 ships stationed in Virginia out to sea. Many routes in the affected areas will be canceled or operate on modified schedules during some or all of that period.

John Johnson, a hardware store manager in Charleston, South Carolina, told AFP news agency there had been a "nonstop" rush on batteries, flashlights, plastic tarpaulins and sandbags. Some gas stations also ran low on fuel.

"What it does after that is pretty complicated because there's no real steering currents", he said.

Schools and state parks have closed.