Donald Trump Warns Americans: Don't "Play Games" With Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence approaches the US East Coast in a satellite image taken from space

Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm but it is still considered an extremely risky and life-threatening storm.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Category 4 storm was about 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C., and moving northwest at about 16 mph.

Hurricane force winds extend 70 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds a full 175 miles from the center. The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore.

More than 60 people, including an infant, children and their pets, were rescued from a collapsing hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, at the height of the storm, according to the Associated Press.

Massive waves of up to 83 feet were measured inside the storm on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center's Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch said, citing satellite altimeter data.

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.

The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut down to allow traffic to flow inland, but the exodus was slow along roads jammed with outward-bound vehicles.

"We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able, we've got the finest people I think anywhere in the world".

President Trump says the Federal Emergency Management Agency and first responders are poised to help - but he also warned people to get out of the storm's path.

A hurricane warning - meaning hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours - is in effect for a long stretch of the coast, from the South Santee River in SC to Duck, N.C., which is part of the Outer Banks.


FEMA Administrator Brock Long urged people to prepare for a "very devastating storm", with possibly weeks-long power outages.

Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations.

"Hugo was a direct hit", he said.

In Charleston, South Carolina, streets were quiet with schools and many offices and businesses closed.

A storm surge watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC, and for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the hurricane center says. "I'm a little bit scared right now", she said, "but I have my iPad and I'm watching Netflix".

"I rode out Hugo", Miller said of a 1989 hurricane that caused widespread damage.

At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two other storms, Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac, but neither packs the deadly punch of Florence.

In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate, including from the Eastern Shore. Three college football games with Top 25 teams have been called off: East Carolina at No. 11 Virginia Tech, No. 15 West Virginia at NC State and No. 18 Central Florida at North Carolina.

The National Hurricane Center is calling for 10 to 20 inches of rain and 30 inches in isolated spots.

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