A lot of people hearing this are remembering Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
The overall trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge". FEMA officials wrote on Twitter people should not focus on the category of the storm - as of Thursday morning, Hurricane Florence was a Category 2 storm, indicating slower wind speeds - but rather should pay attention to the fact there will be extreme flooding in the Carolinas as a result.
Local utility crews are traveling east to the North Carolina coast to help with restoration efforts in preparation for large numbers of power outages caused by Hurricane Florence.
The primary example of this is 2012's Hurricane Sandy, which had modest 80mph winds by the time it reached the NY and New Jersey areas.
The center of Florence is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday, enough time to drop as much as 40 inches (1 meter) of rain in places, according to the National Hurricane Center. The rest of South and North Carolina, including cities from Charlotte to Raleigh, can expect 6 to 12 inches of rain - and up to 2 feet in isolated areas, the NHC warned.
The News & Observer reports that the storm's path shifted early Wednesday and it is now bearing down on southern North Carolina and northern SC, where it could dump up to 40 inches of rain in places.
National Guard soldiers from the state, North Carolina and Virginia are mobilizing to prepare for hurricane recovery efforts.
"This is a big storm, physically, very large".
But the Miami-based NHC stressed it remained "a life-threatening situation" due to the risks of storm surge around coastal areas. The ground is saturated with water and unlikely able to withstand the heavy, persistent rains that are expected.
And then there's the major slowdown that's expected: as of Thursday, Florence was moving roughly 17 km/h, but once it makes landfall, it's expected to nearly stall, with its forward speed dropping to just 9 km/h or less.
Baker said the rain will bring damaging flash flooding to all areas of the Wilmington region, not just low-lying areas that are particularly vulnerable.
And the storm is still expected to bring catastrophic winds, rain, storm surges and flooding, the National Hurricane Center briefing said.
How many people will it affect?
Michelle Stober loaded up valuables at her home on Wrightsville Beach to drive back to her primary residence in Cary, North Carolina.
The zone where these intense winds occur will be narrow and they will last just a few hours, but the effects will probably be severe, similar to a tornado. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. It's moving at 15 miles per hour, but as it nears the Carolina coast, it will dramatically slow down.
Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.
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