Hurricane Florence, from which tropical-storm-force winds are extending nearly 200 miles, has begun pounding the Carolina coastline as officials make last-minute pleas for residents to evacuate.
More than 100,000 homes are already without power as weather conditions begin to worsen.
US Southeast power companies said more than 188,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina and SC were without power early Friday as Hurricane Florence caused a deluge ahead of its landfall later in the day.
North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centres in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.
But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast for days - will bring life-threatening storm surge and torrential rains.
Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
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.
CMS also stated Florence was a powerful and risky storm predicted to have "catastrophic impacts in the Carolinas".
More than 1,400 flights have been cancelled, according to FlightAware.com, with most of the coastal region's airports closed.
"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico", Trump said on Twitter.
"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse. But Luettich said it is still not well understood how factors like rain accumulation and land saturation affect river and coastal flooding during major storm events. "The anxiety level has dropped substantially", Epperson said.
He said hurricane-force winds extended outward 128km from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 320km out.
Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
The Wilmington area can now expect 9-to-13-foot storm surges if Florence's peak impact coincides with high tide, Brunswick County coastal areas west of Southport can expect 6-to-9-foot surges. However, these two are predicted to not cause as much damage as expected of Hurricane Florence. "And the vast majority of the time they are OK", she said. "If I can't get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place".
People are seen inside a shelter run by Red Cross before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Grantsboro, N.C., September 13, 2018. "If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing".
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