Hurricane Florence weakens to Category 2, still thought risky

The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

Up to 35 inches of rain could fall through early next week over parts of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states. "Once the storm moves further inland to Atlanta and Charlotte, the biggest issue will be rain and thunderstorms", she said.

Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm. Hurricane Helene and Subtropical Storm Joyce were off in the Atlantic, posing no threat.

When it reaches the coastline, it could sit around for days, unloading life-threatening storm surge, unsafe winds and flooding rain.

The National Hurricane Center's projected track had Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast starting Thursday night before finally blowing ashore. Some of the storm's wind and rain could even creep into eastern Georgia.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Wednesday night that the hurricane's wind field size continues to increase as it approaches the Carolinas.

The storm's centre was about 165 miles (265 km) east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands.

Florence is moving slowly, about 12 miles per hour (19 km/h) on a meandering track along the coast.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.

More than 1.5million people have faced evacuation orders as the storm bears down and another 10 million face risks of water surges.

"It's still going to be the same result with the amount of water that's being pushed on shore", he explained.

The full impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.

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"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves", the NWS report said.

The slow forward motion means Florence will batter the area with heavy rainfall, producing up to 40 inches in coastal North Carolina and northeastern SC. The Charleston area is under a storm surge watch. Another, stronger high-pressure system to the north, forced Florence west and allowed it to head toward the Carolinas.

"Floodwaters may enter numerous structures, and some may become uninhabitable or washed away", the Weather Service warned.

As many as 1.5 million people are believed to live within mandatory evacuation zones.

Florence's maximum sustained winds were clocked on Thursday at 110 miles per hour (175 kph) after it was downgraded to a Category 2 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the NHC.

Previous attribution studies have looked at the impact of climate change on hurricanes after the storms occur, such as Hurricane Harvey, which researchers said had three times more rainfall than it would have done without global warming when it crunched into Texas past year.

"Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage". Some 11,000 power outages had been reported Thursday morning.

Oddly, the closer Hurricane Florence gets to land, the murkier its future gets.

"This is no ordinary storm, and people could be without power for a very long time - not days but weeks", a president of one energy company in North Carolina said on Wednesday.

"This is a horrific nightmare storm from a meteorological perspective", University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd said.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly. While all simulations show the storm turning back to the north Sunday or Monday (local time), exactly where that turns occurs is a big wild card. But then they gradually diverge.

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