Hurricane Florence drenches barrier islands

Tony Winborne 37 looks at a computer in a Hurricane Florence evacuation shelter where he says it's

The National Hurricane Center says "a life-threatening storm surge is now likely" along the North and SC coasts as Hurricane Florence approaches the US eastern seaboard.

At 6 miles per hour, Florence is taking its time making it to shore, but it's already causing life-threatening storm surges and bringing hurricane-force winds to the North Carolina coast.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned people: "Today the threat becomes a reality". "Catastrophic effects will be felt".

But the storm still carried "very risky winds", the Center added.

"Please keep that in mind", and consider leaving soon, Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said midmorning Thursday.

Its surge of ocean water could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 4m, and days of downpours could dump more than 1m of rain, touching off severe flooding.

Although Charlotte is farther inland than the areas expected to the get the brunt of the hurricane force winds natives say they are anxious about the rain and risk of flooding.

The tropical cyclone is expected to unload 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina, weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said.

Florence, set to make landfall on Friday, was expected to cover nearly all of North Carolina in metres of water, State Governor Roy Cooper told reporters.

Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School.

Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds. "And I just don't think that there's a problem that we can't solve". "We have a safe basement and generator that comes on automatically".

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The storm is now 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.

Florence's winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 225 kph earlier in the week, and the hurricane was downgraded from a terrifying category four to a two.

Heavy bands of rain and tropical storm force winds are sweeping across the barrier islands off North Carolina and along the southeastern coast of the state. It said it was located about 40 miles (65 km) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and forecasters predicted a slow westward march.

A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.

"Your time is running out", he warned those who had not yet heeded the warning to evacuate.

Overall, Young says that evacuees from the coast who have fled to the mountains made the right choice. "Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", he said.

More than 1 million people will likely evacuate from the storm's path in the Carolinas and Virginia, according to the New York Times.

About 1.7 million residents across the states' coastlines are under mandatory evacuation orders, and tens of thousands of hospital patients and prison inmates have been moved out of Florence's path.

With the hurricane beginning to batter North Carolina, the state's Governor has asked US President Donald Trump for another federal disaster declaration beyond what he declared earlier this week.

Duke Energy Corp, the biggest utility in the area with over 4 million customers in the Carolinas, estimated the storm could cause between 1 million to 3 million outages.

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