Dark warning to hurricane battlers
AS Hurricane Florence approaches North and South Carolina, a veteran reporter has issued a dark warning to those refusing to flee.
"Write your Social Security number on your arm, so officials can identify your body."
Pulitzer Prize-winning US journalist Mark Schleifstein, who has been reporting on hurricanes and severe weather since 1984, posted the warning on Twitter to residents living along the region's coast:
He also advised them to "keep an axe in your attic", so that people could break through their rooves if their houses flooded.
Schleifstein's warning follows various reports of residents refusing to evacuate as the storm approaches.
One resident from Myrtle Beach, a popular South Carolina destination for tourists, told CNN: "We're well prepared. We've got things boarded up. We've got a lot of supplies from Walmart."
Another said she was watching the forecasts, and would be ready to pack up and leave at the last minute if she had to.
A mother from Asheboro, North Carolina, was advised to leave the hotel where she'd been vacationing with her family, CBS News reported.
"The only reason we're still here is because we have a 7-month-old baby with us," she said.
Another local, Mike White, said: "We have two generators, plenty of gasoline, everything's filled up. If I need more gas, I'll just take it out of my vehicle."
Traffic patterns indicate that many people are leaving the Carolinas, however.
Mayor Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune told CNN traffic out of the South Carolina city has more than quadrupled as residents and visitors evacuate.
"We are seeing people leaving town. We have a four- to six-time increase of traffic heading out of Myrtle Beach, but it needs to be much more than that," Ms Bethune said.
"We still have a lot of people who are not taking this seriously. And I cannot stress enough the importance of adhering to the governor's orders for mandatory evacuation."
STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED AS STORM APPROACHES
Officials have issued warnings to the public as Hurricane Florence approaches.
Muriel Bowser, the Mayor of the nation's capital, has declared a state of emergency.
"While we are monitoring potential impacts of Hurricane Florence on the District, we remain committed to keeping our residents safe, prepared, and informed," Ms Bowser said in a statement. "I encourage all District residents and visitors to take this storm seriously."
Governor of South Carolina Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of most of the state's coastline as the storm approaches. He warned residents to be prepared to be without electricity "for a long time" in the storm's aftermath.
The state's officials say more than 400,000 people have evacuated the coast and more than 4000 people have taken refuge in shelters as the storm approaches.
State Transportation Department Secretary Christy Hall said Thursday that an estimated 421,000 residents had left the coast.
Acting Department of Social Services Director Joan Meacham said shelters were about 12 percent full with the 4000 residents.
Ms Meacham says the state can house more than 35,000 people if needed. She said 61 shelters had opened thus far, including 12 that are specially outfitted to help people with special medical needs.
Meanwhile meteorologists say Hurricane Florence will cause damage that exceeds $10 billion and could reach as much as $50 billion.
Other officials have warned the storm could also bring landslides to South Carolina.
The National Weather Service is forecasting "significant" river flooding, especially in the northeastern portion of the state. That same area experienced dangerous flooding after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
A flight-tracking service says about 1200 US airline flights scheduled for today have been cancelled, with some airports in the Carolinas essentially shut down.
- with AAP