APTOPIX Tropical Weather

This photo provided by NASA shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, as it threatens the U.S. East Coast. (NASA via AP)

Hurricane Florence is now a profoundly dangerous storm. It continued to strengthen Monday in the Atlantic Ocean, and its track indicates landfall somewhere along the coasts of North and South Carolina.

Should Florence hit near Charleston this week, it would be one of the strongest storms the city has experienced in recorded history. Even if the hurricane lands well north of the city, the wind, rain and storm surge could pose significant threats.

It’s time to take this seriously.

On Monday, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered evacuations along the entire South Carolina coast, including Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties. The evacuation goes into effect on Tuesday, and Charleston area residents should be prudent and heed the call — sooner rather than later.

Eastbound lanes on I-26 will be reversed. Anti-price gouging laws will take effect. Schools and non-essential government offices will close. Hospitals and nursing homes will transfer patients to safety.

Again, it’s time to take this seriously.

Weather forecasts predict tropical storm force winds will start early Thursday morning in the area in front of the storm. Dangerous conditions could extend for 100 miles or more from Florence’s center.

“This is a real hurricane that we have coming, and our goal is to protect lives and property,” said Gov. McMaster. “This evacuation order is going to be inconvenient for some people, but we do not want to risk one South Carolina life.”

“This is a very dangerous hurricane.”

The governor said he expects 1 million people to leave the coast.

South Carolina officials have learned much about facilitating a quick and effective evacuation since the colossal traffic jams that snarled the state’s major roads ahead of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Everyone needs to travel to safety. Evacuees should be prepared for possible delays.

Before leaving town, bring in outdoor items, secure anything that could become a projectile in strong winds and board up windows if you believe it’s necessary. However, life is worth far more than material possessions. Getting out of the storm’s path is the most important priority right now.

Those who choose to stay — a risky decision — should make sure that they have enough water and nonperishable food to last for several days, along with any necessary medications and tools like flashlights and battery-operated radios.

It’s still uncertain where Florence will crash ashore. But gambling with a storm of this size and strength is not a good bet.

Gov. McMaster is right about Hurricane Florence. It’s as dangerous a natural threat as South Carolina has faced in a long time.

When it comes to a storm like this, it’s best to be cautious.