Beaufort and Jasper counties were not included in the initial hurricane and storm-surge watches for Hurricane Florence issued Tuesday morning by the National Weather Service.

The watches extend north from Edisto Beach to the North Carolina-Virginia border.

NWS said the rest of the Southeast coast should continue to monitor the Category 4 storm, whose winds have reached 140 mph, as additional watches could be issued later today.

Beaufort, Jasper and South Carolina’s other coastal counties are under a mandatory evacuation order that is effective at noon today.

All of Beaufort County has been ordered to evacuate. Jasper’s evacuation order includes all areas east of Interstate 95 and all areas south of Sand Hills Road (Hwy. 119) and Tillman Road (Hwy. 336).

Hurricane Florence is expected to approach Category 5 status on Tuesday as it slows and strengthens off North and South Carolina. The center of the massive storm is then forecast to meander Thursday, Friday and Saturday over a stretch of coastline saturated by rising seas.

Gov. Henry McMaster predicted that 1 million people would flee as highways reverse directions. Virginia's governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas, while some coastal counties in North Carolina have done the same.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state is "in the bullseye" and urged people to "get ready now."

The very center of that bullseye may be Camp Lejeune, the sprawling Marine Corps training base. Tuesday's 7-day rainfall forecast showed 20 inches or more falling there, part of a wide swath of rainfall that could total ten inches or more over much of Virginia and drench the nation's capital.

Florence could hit the Carolinas harder than any hurricane since Hazel packed 130 mph winds in 1954. That Category 4 storm destroyed 15,000 buildings and 19 people in North Carolina. In the six decades since then, many thousands of people have moved to the coast.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.