The outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday (Friday NZ Time) as the monster storm moved in for an extended stay along the Southeastern coast, promising to drench the properties of 10 million people with huge amounts of water.
The storm fell to a Category 2 Wednesday night, but faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes.
In the 5 a.m. ET advisory, Florence was 205 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, NC, packing maximum-sustained winds of 110 mph and moving to the northwest at 15 mph.
Florence is a large storm packing hurricane-force winds that extend about 130 km outward from its centre; tropical storm-force winds extend even further, up to 315 km away.
The 400-mile wide storm is predicted to start slamming the N.C. coast Thursday night to early Friday, then weaken to a tropical storm as it drifts into SC, said John Quagliariello, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia.
But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".
A tropical storm watch is in effect for north of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort. If you're anywhere near the affected regions or have loved ones in the deadly Category 2 storm's path, make sure to keep track of what government and other storm trackers are advising. REUTERS/Chris KeanePeople walk past a boarded up building before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, U.S., September 12, 2018. Tropical-storm-force winds are between 39 and 73 miles per hour.
Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over warm ocean waters and move toward land. Parts of North Carolina could get 40 inches (1 meter) of rain.
The impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.
"It's going to coming roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say 'I'm not sure I really want to do this and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland,"' said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground.
By way of computer modeling, Duke Energy anticipates between 1 and 3 million customers in the Carolinas to lose power in addition to those Dominion serves in Virginia.
"Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated, " he said.
Where exactly the zone of heaviest rain sets up as the storm meanders inland is more uncertain, but models suggest that it may concentrate in southern North Carolina and northern SC through the weekend.
So we could have two landfalls - one around Wilmington and then one near Myrtle Beach or even south of there. Additionally, tornadoes could arise in southeast North Carolina on Thursday and Friday.
"We've seen fatalities and deaths from tropical storms, from Category 1 storms and from Category 2 storms", Becker said. All seven of North Carolina's ferry routes were shut down. Only one storm scared them enough to leave the island.
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Officials in the potential path of Florence urged people to evacuate their coastal homes and directed drivers away from the coast. FEMA has warned that while downgraded, the storm will still generate life threatening storm surge and rainfall in North and SC .
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