Stare Down from Space into the Churning Maw of Hurricane Florence

Heavy rain, wind gusts and rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence swamped the Carolinas as the massive storm crawled toward the coast, threatening millions of people in its path with record rainfall and punishing surf.

Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm overnight on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale but it is still packing hurricane-force winds of 100 miles (155 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

At least 88,000 people were without power in North Carolina with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to the state's emergency management agency.

The storm's center was about 145 miles (235 km) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as of Thursday night.

Baltimore County officials said Thursday that they placed emergency personnel on "high alert" should there be flooding and outages, and urged residents to make preparations just in case.

Those surges alone are projected to cause inland flooding of more than 9 feet in cities like New Bern, North Carolina, even without the expected 15 to 20 inches of rain.

The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 90 miles per hour (144 kph) by nightfall.


"This storm will bring destruction", said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. Storm surge is why many of you have been placed under evacuation and we are asking citizens to please heed a warning. "Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience".

The centre of Florence is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday.

Cooper requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called "historic major damage" across the state.

At the time of writing, over 116,000 people were watching the storm approach the tower, which "is a privately owned surplus Coast Guard Light Station", that also doubles as a "unique adventure bed & breakfast" when the weather is more appropriate. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire. Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers.

On Thursday, schools and businesses were closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled about 1,200 flights and counting, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty.

As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 135 kilometer east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 7 kph.

A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet (9 meters) high as Florence churned toward shore. It is forecast to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, at midday Friday.

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