The Georgia and South Carolina coasts have been evacuated as the US remains on high alert for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, which has already smashed the Bahamas.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Dorian made landfall on Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sunday (local time) with maximum sustained winds of 180 miles per hour (285 km per hour) and gusts of more than 200 mph (322 kph).
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Millions of people from Florida to North Carolina were bracing to see whether Dorian avoids a US landfall and, as predicted, veers north into the Atlantic Ocean after hitting the Bahamas. Even a glancing blow from one of the strongest storms ever to menace Florida could bring torrential rains and damaging winds, and "a Florida landfall is still a distinct possibility," the Miami-based NHC warned.
US-based atmospheric scientist Michael Lowry said on Twitter the fact the hurricane was approaching Florida - the country's third-most populous state, was "wildly unnerving".
Lowry urged people to follow the warnings of local officials.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on Sunday (local time): "We are continuing to make all necessary precautions in urging people out in the state of Florida to make their preparations, heed evacuation orders".
Fox News reported DeSantis as saying: "The storm has slowed down but we do need it to slow down just a little more to ensure when it turns north that it's not impacting directly the Florida coast".
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is moving food, water and generators into the southeastern United States, acting administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN.
Dorian is expected to be between 64 and 80 kilometres off the coast of Florida between late Tuesday and early Wednesday, reports AP.
Hurricane Andrew slammed into eastern Florida in 1992 as a category 5 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, obliterating the town of Homestead.
US President Donald Trump warned on Sunday (local time) that the storm would likely impact the eastern seaboard from Florida to North Carolina.
"We don't know where it's going to hit, but we have an idea, probably a little bit different than the original course," Trump said.