The Latest: Florence to bring life-threatening storm surge

People drive over a drawbridge in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., as they evacuate the area in advance of Hurricane Florence, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Flore

People drive over a drawbridge in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., as they evacuate the area in advance of Hurricane Florence, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Flore

Workers cover the windows of the historic Charleston County Courthouse in Charleston, S.C., in preparation for the advancing Hurricane Florence Tuesda

Workers cover the windows of the historic Charleston County Courthouse in Charleston, S.C., in preparation for the advancing Hurricane Florence Tuesda

President Donald Trump looks at a chart showing potential rainfall totals from Hurricane Florence during a briefing in the Oval Office of the White Ho

President Donald Trump looks at a chart showing potential rainfall totals from Hurricane Florence during a briefing in the Oval Office of the White Ho

Police cars block the Ashley Phosphate Road exit ramp off Interstate 26 in North Charleston, S.C., as both sides of the highway flow westbound toward

Police cars block the Ashley Phosphate Road exit ramp off Interstate 26 in North Charleston, S.C., as both sides of the highway flow westbound toward

This GOES East satellite image taken Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean a

This GOES East satellite image taken Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean a

This image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence, third from right, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, as it threatens the U.S. East Coast. At right is H

This image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence, third from right, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, as it threatens the U.S. East Coast. At right is H

Nick Hobbs, of Marine Warehouse Center, removes a customer's boat from the water in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., Tuesday

Nick Hobbs, of Marine Warehouse Center, removes a customer's boat from the water in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., Tuesday

Michelle Stober, of Cary, N.C., removes food from a freezer as she prepares their vacation home in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach

Michelle Stober, of Cary, N.C., removes food from a freezer as she prepares their vacation home in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach

Storefronts have wood paneling installed over windows, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in New Bern, N.C., as a  precaution against storm damage from Hurrican

Storefronts have wood paneling installed over windows, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in New Bern, N.C., as a precaution against storm damage from Hurrican

Robert Patch and John Courtney, of Local Builder's Construction, install wood paneling over windows at the Armstrong Grocery , Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018

Robert Patch and John Courtney, of Local Builder's Construction, install wood paneling over windows at the Armstrong Grocery , Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018

A worker covers a window at Charleston City Hall in Charleston, S.C., in preparation for the advancing Hurricane Florence Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP

A worker covers a window at Charleston City Hall in Charleston, S.C., in preparation for the advancing Hurricane Florence Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP

An auto parts store has wood paneling installed over the windows, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in New Bern, N.C., as a  precaution against storm damage fr

An auto parts store has wood paneling installed over the windows, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in New Bern, N.C., as a precaution against storm damage fr

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Florence (all times local):

2:20 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to portions of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states.

At 2 a.m., the storm was centered 625 miles (1,005 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph (28 kph). Strengthening is forecast through Wednesday. It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph (253 kph) or higher.

Forecasters say the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday, and approach the coast of the Carolinas in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday.

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11 p.m.

Residents on the Carolina coast are finding empty gas pumps and depleted store shelves as they flee a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence.

With the storm churning across the Atlantic with 140 mph winds, hurricane watches and warnings include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the East Coast. A steady stream of vehicles filled with people and belongings is moving inland.

Forecasters say Florence is expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and dump 1 to 2½ feet of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.