Hurricane Florence is heading south Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour as expectations grow it will bring significant damage to the U.S. east coast.
"Latest models show a ridge building over eastern US slowing down Florence near our coast, stalling, then moving into" South Carolina, the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina said on Twitter. "Impacts will still be felt far away from center of storm, and uncertainty still exists regarding magnitude of impacts in our area."
Florence is a massive 400-mile-wide Category 4 storm, and meteorologists expect it to make landfall sometime late Friday or Saturday morning. But its strong winds and storm surge could begin to be felt as early as Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center warned Florence is expected to bring "life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding is likely" over portions of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic region.
The storm is shaping up to be the costliest in U.S. history with an estimate compiled by analytics firm CoreLogic putting the price tag at around $170 billion. The firm estimated 759,000 homes and businesses could be damaged.
The National Weather Service said it expects Florence to drop 20-30 inches (50-76 centimeters) of rainfall with some areas receiving up to 40 inches (100 centimeters), calling the expected deluge "hard to comprehend."
U.S. President Donald Trump said it is "imperative" for those subject to local evacuation orders to heed the instruction of local officials.
"This storm is extremely dangerous. Be SAFE!" he said on Twitter.
The storm comes as Democratic Senator Jeff Markey released late Tuesday documents he said show a transfer of $10 million from the U.S.'s disaster response agency, FEMA, to its immigration enforcement department, ICE.
Markey accused the administration of taking money from "response and recovery" efforts as hurricane season approaches, telling the MSNBC network the administration is "working hard to find funds for additional detention camps."
He was referring to the camps the Trump administration set up to house individuals accused of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally as they await legal proceedings.
But the Department of Homeland Security strongly rejected Markey's accusations, saying in a statement "under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts."
"This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster," department spokesman Tyler Houlton said on Twitter.
"The money in question — transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses — could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations," he added.
By Michael Hernandez in Washington