Search-and-rescue team from Maryland heads to SC before storm

The storm, which is poised to affect millions this week in the southeastern USA, is "expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall" to North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, and parts of the Mid-Atlantic states, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Hurricane Florence is predicted to be the size of the entire state of North Carolina when it makes landfall late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

It could stall just off the coast and then drift south along the SC coast and possibly make a landfall as a weaker system if it doesn't make it clearly over the coast of North Carolina.

Two other hurricanes, Helene and Isaac, are now trailing Florence in the Atlantic and forecasters have warned that they could head for the UK.

Mack said U-Haul has been inspecting its facilities over the last week to make sure they are "clean, dry and secure".

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"We have to be careful we're not asking them to come back to Beaufort County through a storm", he said. "As a strong member of these communities, we are in the position to offer this service to our friends who are in harm's way".

Emergency preparations in the area included activating 2,800 National Guard troops in North Carolina, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so that major roads led away from shore and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the three-state region.

US President Donald Trump said the "storm looks very bad" and urged people to take precautions.

Business owners prepare for Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Privately, you may be wondering (and you wouldn't be alone): "What exactly is storm surge?"

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"I'm not approaching Florence from fear or panic", said Brad Corpening, 35, who planned to ride out the storm in his boarded-up delicatessen in Wilmington.

If this scenario plays out, meteorologists say there would be monumental rainfall totals along the coast and just inland east of the eye's landfall location.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper told locals not to "bet your life on riding out a monster", with ferocious winds set to batter the shoreline.

"Been through it!" Belli said, referring to Hurricane Hugo, which caused widespread damage in SC in 1989.

"This is a real hurricane that we have coming and our goal is to protect lives and property", said Steve Goldstein, NOAA liaison to FEMA.

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"Many of the people here have never seen a storm this strong", Myers said. Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland. "This is going to be catastrophic in parts of eastern North Carolina". The Virginia National Guard is planning to initially bring up to 1,500 soldiers and airmen to offer help in the state's response operations.

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