With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland were trying to time their evacuation from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.
But astonishing winds aren't the biggest danger.
If some of the computer projections hold, "it's going to come roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say, 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground forecasting service. A year ago, people would have laughed off such a forecast, but the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches (150 centimeters) for Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, so "you start to wonder what these models know that we don't", University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy said.
On Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Service issued an alert that Hurricane Florence is "expected to bring [a] life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to portions of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states".
U.S. capital under state of emergency, evacuation ordered
The worst of the storm is expected to hit the USA in the early hours of Friday, with swells as high as 12ft forecast. American Airlines is also letting travelers in the Caribbean change tickets ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Crews also prepared 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region for the storm.
Forecasters say Hurricane Florence is generating enormous waves, as high as 83 feet (25 meters) as it makes its way toward the East Coast. The stronger the storm, the stronger the winds and the higher the storm surge will be.
Coastal residents have already started leaving the shores and heading west inland, but many are finding empty gas pumps as gasoline stations are sold out of gas. That's because the longer this slow-moving hurricane hovers over land, the more rain it'll dump in the same places. "It's a statewide threat for the states involved". "Of course, we're keeping an eye on the forecast.so if something changes and we need to go, we'll get out at [the] last minute if we have to".
The slow movement, combined with the massive amount of moisture this storm holds, will bring risky rains - from 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina, with 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says.
Emergency declared as Tropical Storm Gordon heads for Gulf Coast
The National Weather Service in North Little Rock said rainfall would likely approach southeast Arkansas on Wednesday. A stray seagull fought the wind gusts and appeared to be floating in space over the volleyball nets.
The Carolinas will likely bear the brunt of Florence's wrath. According to NPR, over 1 million people have been ordered to evacuated ahead of the storm's arrival, which is expected to create extreme flooding and power loss.
"They have no idea what "overwash" of an island will do to a home, what the wind could do to your home and what to do to your home to make it safer after you evacuate".
"Been through it!" Belli said, referring to Hurricane Hugo, which caused widespread damage in SC in 1989.
"We're a resilient bunch down here. We're going to stay tight and check on everybody", he said. "But this is pretty serious".
Tropical Storm Gordon has formed. The Mississippi Coast is in its path.
But tropical storm conditions - winds of at least 39 miles per hour - could hit the Gulf Coast as early as Tuesday afternoon. The hurricane center also is monitoring a tropical wave a few hundred miles south-southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands.
He said the federal government and first responders are ready to assist, but that 'bad things can happen when you're talking about a storm this size'.