As store windows are prepped with plywood a couple waits for their automobile in Nags Head, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast of the Carolinas. The National Weather Service says Hurricane Florence “will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast.” (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Sarah Dankanich, right, removes an “out of service” wrapper from a gas pump as her husband, Bryan Dankanich, left, prepares to pump gas in cans in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
WILMINGTON, N.C. — Communities along the Carolina coast buttoned up against the onslaught of Hurricane Florence as forecasters Wednesday warned that the monstrous storm could hesitate just offshore for days — punishing a longer stretch of coastline harder than previously feared — before pushing inland over the weekend.