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Motorists scramble to fill up on gas, flee as ‘vicious’ Hurricane Florence nears North Carolina

Click to play video: 'Gas shortages emerge in North Carolina as people prepare for Hurricane Florence' Gas shortages emerge in North Carolina as people prepare for Hurricane Florence
WATCH: Gas shortages emerge in North Carolina as people prepare for Hurricane Florence – Sep 11, 2018

North Carolina residents scrambled to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, with gas stations running out of gas and heavy traffic hitting the highways in largely one direction — away from the path of the monstrous storm.

More than 1.5 million people along the southeast coast of the U.S. were ordered to evacuate their homes and get out of the way of what North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper described as “an extremely, dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane.”

READ MORE: Hurricane Florence is ‘very dangerous,’ but don’t expect everyone to evacuate

People across the region rushed to buy bottled water, food and gas, board up their homes or flee town.

A line of heavy traffic lumbered away from the port city of Wilmington, N.C. and towards inland Raleigh, with Interstate 40 becoming gridlocked in some places due to fender-benders.

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Only a small trickle of vehicles was going in the opposite direction, and largely comprised trucks carrying building materials.

WATCH: Millions of Americans evacuating ahead of Hurricane Florence

Click to play video: 'Millions of Americans evacuating ahead of Hurricane Florence' Millions of Americans evacuating ahead of Hurricane Florence
Millions of Americans evacuating ahead of Hurricane Florence – Sep 11, 2018

People in some parts of North Carolina took to social media to report several multi-vehicle accidents, and standstill traffic with some motorists sitting in traffic for several hours before giving up and returning home..

Service stations began to run out of gas on Monday evening as motorists hurried to fill up their tanks.

“People are getting frantic,” said Nadine Schrock, assistant manager of a BP service station in Wilmington. She added her shop also ran out of cases of bottled water.

WATCH: Tracking Hurricane Florence before it hits Carolinas, Virginia

Click to play video: 'Tracking Hurricane Florence before it hits Carolinas, Virginia' Tracking Hurricane Florence before it hits Carolinas, Virginia
Tracking Hurricane Florence before it hits Carolinas, Virginia – Sep 11, 2018

The scene in Wrightsville Beach, just east of Wilmington, was described as a “madhouse” by one resident.

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“I’m looking across the street at a gas station, and it’s a madhouse. People are honking at each other, cars are almost lined up out to the street,” said Wrightsville Beach resident Lauren Hancock.

The pumps at the Shell gas station on Western Boulevard featured “out of gas” signs as people prepared to ride out Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C.
The pumps at the Shell gas station on Western Boulevard featured “out of gas” signs as people prepared to ride out Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C. Casey Toth/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images

Brokers and wholesalers in the Carolinas said they were starting to see stockpiles dwindle.

“As a resident of the South East and pretty much in the way of Florence, we are already running out of gasoline,” said Scott Shelton, an energy broker at ICAP in Durham, North Carolina.

Residents of Wake County, the second-biggest county in the state, reported difficulty locating gas stations that weren’t out of gas.

Fuel shortages were reported at several locations near the evacuation zone, according to the gas price comparison app GasBuddy.

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GasBuddy said on Monday that it was activating its fuel availability tracker service for users in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to help motorists locate gas stations that still have fuel.

“When hurricane features are activated for an area, GasBuddy’s free app can differentiate stations that have no gasoline, no diesel or no power so that motorists can try other stations,” GasBuddy said.

“The crowdsourced tracker can be updated by motorists and displays the status for locations that have been reported to GasBuddy. Motorists are encouraged to report the status of any station they see to help others find gasoline or avoid stations with no fuel or power.”

WATCH: Florence strongest storm to target Carolinas in decades

Click to play video: 'Florence ‘strongest storm to target Carolinas in decades: FEMA' Florence ‘strongest storm to target Carolinas in decades: FEMA
Florence ‘strongest storm to target Carolinas in decades: FEMA – Sep 11, 2018

The National Hurricane Center warned Tuesday afternoon that Hurricane Florence was “getting better organized and increasing in size,” and that tropical storm-force winds could hit as early as Wednesday evening.

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“A life-threatening storm surge is now highly likely along portions of the coastlines of South Carolina and North Carolina, and a storm surge warning is in effect for a portion of this area,” the NHC said.

WATCH: Officials urge people in North Carolina to heed warnings on Florence

Click to play video: 'Officials urge people in North Carolina to heed warnings on Florence' Officials urge people in North Carolina to heed warnings on Florence
Officials urge people in North Carolina to heed warnings on Florence – Sep 11, 2018

Gov. Cooper pleaded with residents, even those with prior experience riding out storms, not to take any chances with this one.

“This storm is a monster. It’s big and it’s vicious,” Cooper said.

“The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”

— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press

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