Florence, a potentially life-threatening Category 4 hurricane, is on track to make landfall in North Carolina or SC on Thursday (Sept. 13).
Florence is now churning through the Atlantic, only a few hundred miles off the coast of Wilmington, N.C.
"It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave", said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. Harrigan's crew captured images of boarded-up homes and empty beaches.
The storm is likely to die out by Wednesday, the forecaster said. "Maximum sustained winds remain near 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) with higher gusts".
Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats. The flooding began on barrier islands in North Carolina and then spread into coastal and river communities there and in SC, swamping the white sands and golf courses in North Myrtle Beach.
A spokeswoman said: "Basically Helene is in the Atlantic at the moment and is crossing the Atlantic and is expected to track towards the UK".
The declaration covers nearly the entire state and includes Coweta County and the surrounding area.
More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire.
Beyond that brief period, the cyclone should weaken a bit as it completes extratropical transition while passing just to the northwest of the Azores Islands and traversing much cooler waters. Nationwide, airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday. Helene is expected to then weaken and poses no threat to the United States, as of the center's 8 a.m. advisory.
"We could get some rain and gusty winds". She was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited help.
"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington". A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, in this case within 24 to 36 hours.
Since issuing a mandatory evacuation order Wednesday, nearly all of the more than 2500 residents left the island. Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.
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FEMA Administrator Brock Long urged people to prepare for a "very devastating storm", with possibly weeks-long power outages. Rather than pushing up toward western Virginia, the storm's center is now predicted to move across the middle of SC .
Hurricane force winds extend 70 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds a full 175 miles from the center. KHOU reports the storm could bring 10 inches of rain to isolated spots in South Texas.
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Through the day, the storm's pace slowed even more, from 10 miles per hour Thursday morning to 3 miles per hour by Friday evening. The City of New Bern said in a tweet before dawn Friday that there were about 150 people who still needed swift-water rescue.
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Florence will track through SC through Saturday night, and then up into western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee on Sunday. Super Typhoon Mangkhut was expected to hit an area in the Philippines on Saturday that would affect 5.2 million people.
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Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas. About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.
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Carolinas brace for Florence
Hurricane Florence, growing in size despite its weakening winds on Wednesday, crept closer to the U.S. Nineteen people in North Carolina were killed, and 15,000 homes were destroyed.