Millions of people on the East Coast of the United States find themselves in the path of a monster Category 4 hurricane that threatens catastrophic coastal flooding and damage in the billions of dollars. Hurricane Florence is churning slowly towards the southern parts of the eastern seaboard and could slam into the Carolinas by Thursday night bringing sweeping winds of more than 200km per hour and dumping rain that could cause coastal erosion and a major storm surge. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in parts of the region while university campuses, schools and factories have been shuttered.

Florence is a mammoth Category four hurricane that could strengthen to a Category 5. Beach communities in North and South Carolina shoring up supplies with more than 1 million people ordered to evacuate the coastline in three states.

Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Lives cannot be replaced, again, I want to hammer that importance home. This is not going to be a glancing blow. This is not going to be a tropical storm, this is not going to be you know one of those storms that hit and move out out the sea. This is going to be you know a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast and then it’s going to have very heavy rains, you know that as Steve alluded to it’s going to stall, so we’re looking at inland flooding we’re looking at you know coastal storm surge.”

President Donald Trump has canceled a campaign rally in Missouri to focus on the approaching storm and has already declared states of emergency in North and South Carolina and Virginia. He posted this message on twitter Wednesday.

‘Hurricane Florence is fast approaching, It’s going to be here over the next 48 hours, and they say it’s about as big as they’ve seen coming to this country and certainly to the east coast, as they’ve ever seen. We’ll handle it, we’re ready, we’re able. We’ve got the finest people I think anywhere in the world. FEMA and first responders are out there, they’re going to stand through the danger of this storm. Get out of its way, don’t play games with it. It’s a big one, may be as big as they’ve seen and tremendous amounts of water. The storm will come, It will go, we want everybody to be safe.’

The main concern is that the hurricane will hover along the coast or slightly inland for days, dropping large quantities of water similar to Hurricane Harvey last year that inflicted catastrophic rainfall-triggered flooding in the Houston Texas metropolitan area.

FEMA’s Jeff Byard explains further, “As far as what the exact amounts are going to be, it’s too early to determine, but I can say this, there will be disruptions in our services the power will go off and infrastructure will be damaged, homes will be damaged or destroyed. So again the time to act is now. We can rebuild that. We can the power will come back on roads will be repaired but we cannot repair your loss of life and we ask right now the time to evacuate is now.”

Florence is the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on the Eastern States in decades. The national weather service says Florence will likely be a storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast. And here’s the kicker – she’s the most dangerous of three tropical storms currently formed in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to track south of the US territory of Puerto Rico which saw close to 3000 deaths and large scale devastation from Hurricane Maria last year while Hurricane Helene was moving northwards in the Atlantic away from land.