President Trump on Wednesday said Hurricane Florence, a powerful Category 3 storm barreling toward the East Coast, is “even bigger” than officials expected and warned residents to "get out of its way."
“Hurricane Florence is looking even bigger than anticipated,” Trump tweeted. “It will be arriving soon. FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready. Be safe!”
The president also released a video telling residents in affected areas: “Get out of its way, don't play games with it -- it's a big one, may be as big as they've seen.”
According to Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean, Florence could stall upon reaching the Carolina coast later this week and make a slight shift south toward South Carolina once it makes landfall, becoming "a major flooding event."
The storm, which is poised to affect millions this week in the southeastern U.S., is "expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall" to North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, and parts of the Mid-Atlantic states, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Florence was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane early Wednesday afternoon, but it is expected to be a Category 4 storm again by Thursday morning. It is approximately 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, as of 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, according to the NHC.
The center says the storm is moving northwest at 16 mph, and has maximum sustained winds of about 125 mph.
The center also says the storm could become more powerful.
"Florence is a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale," it noted. "Strengthening is forecast through [Wednesday]. While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane as it approaches the U.S. coast."
Meanwhile, Trump on Wednesday boasted about his administration’s response to past hurricanes, while also referencing his past feud with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz over storm relief efforts in Puerto Rico last year.
“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan),” he tweeted.
A day earlier, Trump was criticized by Democrats after he touted the “incredibly successful” response to the back-to-back hurricanes that struck Puerto Rico last year. Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the island in September 2017, the latter of which had its official death toll increased last month from 64 people dead to 2,975.
“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump said Tuesday, adding that he thought the storms that hit the island were “probably the hardest” thus far due to “the island nature.”
Critics like Yulin Cruz slammed Trump for those comments.
“Pres Trump thinks loosing [sic] 3,000 lives is a success,” she tweeted Tuesday. “Can you imagine what he thinks failure looks like?”
Fox News’ Elizabeth Zwirz, Zoe Szathmary and The Associated Press contributed to this report.