Thousands flee Florence, head to Florida

President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged those living in the path of Hurricane Florence to comply with all evacuation orders and emergency instructions.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said "protection of life is the absolute highest priority." 

He warned that Florence could be "one of the biggest ever to hit the East Coast."

Late Wednesday, the storm had weakened slightly to a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 mph (175 kph) as it approaches the North and South Carolina coasts.  The center was located about 325 miles (520 km) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The storm was moving northwest at 17 miles per hour (28 km/h).

Trump says his administration has been in "close contact" with the state and local governments soon to be impacted by the massive storm.

The National Weather Service is predicting that the hurricane will blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon along the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then push its rainy way westward, with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding.

A spokeswoman for Love's Travel Stops says demand for gasoline has doubled at many of the company's truck-stop locations in the path of Hurricane Florence.

At least 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia have been warned to evacuate, and others are hunkering down. Tracking service GasBuddy says that has led to a run on gas stations that left about 5 percent of all service stations in North Carolina out of gasoline by Wednesday.

Love's spokeswoman Kyla Turner says the company brought in drivers from other areas and increased deliveries to keep its locations stocked. She says it had not run out at any of its 27 locations in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.