Forecasters have issued a hurricane warning for parts of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence barrels toward land.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tuesday that a warning had been issued from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.
A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued from north of the North Carolina-Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, Virginia, and for the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Florence was centered 785 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving west-northwest at 17 mph.
It is a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (220 kph). It is expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, with winds of 157 mph or higher.
Forecasters at the University of Michigan predict that 2.4 million people will lose power from Hurricane Florence and some outages could be prolonged.
That’s about one-fourth the number who suffered outages from Hurricane Sandy, which hit a more populated area around New Jersey in 2012.
Seth Guikema is an associate professor of engineering at Michigan. He says outages could be more widespread if Florence veers north or stalls, leading to flooding.
The estimate is based on the National Hurricane Center’s forecast for Florence’s path and wind speeds.
Duke Energy spokeswoman Grace Rountree says the utility doesn’t forecast outages, but is “anticipating significant widespread outages from a storm of this magnitude.”
She says the company is bringing in up to 2,000 workers from Florida and the Midwest to augment its 4,600 workers in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Duke has 4 million customers in the Carolinas.