Virginia's governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas as state officials warned residents across the entire state to brace for a potential once-in-a-generation storm, catastrophic floods and days-long power outages.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced at a news conference Monday that the evacuation order set to begin Tuesday at 8 a.m. applies to parts of the Hampton Roads area and Eastern Shore. State officials say 245,000 people live in the affected area.
Hurricane Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 130 mph and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.
South Carolina's governor ordered the state's entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee.
Northam said Virginia's evacuation zone includes the most flood-prone coastal areas. He said inland flooding could be severe and urged residents around the state to prepare for floods and loss of power.
"This is a serious storm and it's going to affect the entire state of Virginia," Northam said.
Virginia officials said they are taking several steps to prepare for the storm, including activing 1,500 National Guardsmen and asking other states to send rescue teams.
State officials said they have a tiered system for evacuating and are so far only requiring residents of the most flood prone areas, known as of "Zone A" to leave their homes.
The affected zone includes parts of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton and the Eastern Shore. It also stretches north to include parts of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. A detailed map is available on the state's website, www.vaemergency.gov .
State Coordinator for Emergency Management Jeff Stern said the state may order additional evacuations if the storm's projected path changes. The next tier of potential evacuees, Zone B, has about 300,000 residents.
Officials said they are continuing to work on details about where evacuees can seek shelter and additional details will be provided in the near term.
"The simplest answer is: go to higher ground and inland," Northam said.