Hurricane Florence weakens to Category 2 as storm takes aim at Southeast

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The agency has warned of "life-threatening" storm surges along the south-eastern seaboard and freshwater flooding due to a "prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event".

The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's centre reaching the coast Friday.

Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 110 miles per hour (175 km/h) with higher gusts.

The National Hurricane Center states that these storm surges are highly likely along portions of the coastlines of North Carolina and SC.

On the forecast track, the center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC on Thursday, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC in the hurricane warning area on Thursday night and Friday. Some models show the storm moving southward along the coast, bringing with it hurricane or tropical storm-like conditions to the Beaufort County area.

"Even the rescuers can not stay there", he said.

Hurricane Florence is weakening slightly as it continues toward the Carolina coastal areas, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Wednesday, adding that life-threatening storm surge and rainfall were still expected. His home, built 1 mile inland in 2016, is raised 25 feet off the ground and is built to withstand 140-mph winds, he said.

Small said the precautions have worked in previous hurricanes, but he said he remained wary of the flooding potential from the storm with the same name as his town.

Benson has lived in North Carolina for more than a decade and now is headed away from the hurricane's destructive path.

"I understand that there are essential services and those in the essential services will be at work ...but the rest of us in the public service are asked to stay home and to ensure that we can secure ourselves, secure our families and our properties". She packed up what she could and took a ferry Tuesday night.


There was also concern over crops.

In South Carolina, traffic along parts of Interstate 26 and USA 501 has been directed away from the coast.

The contraflow will end Thursday at noon on 501 and at 6 p.m. on I-26.

It's unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

It is becoming more certain that Florence will bring a unsafe storm surge to the Carolina coast and life-threatening flooding farther inland.

Meanwhile, the projections for rain are growing, adding to growing concerns about flooding across the two states: Coastal North Carolina now expects 20-30 inches, with isolated areas of 40 inches projected in SC.

Despite pleas from officials, some residents ignored calls to evacuate.

"Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you", Gerst said.

Along with Florence, there are three other tropical systems, Isaac, Helene and Joyce churning in the Atlantic Ocean. Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different.

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