A storm front is seen on the beach in North Topsail Beach, North Carolina, prior to Hurricane Florence moving toward the United States east coast.
As of 8am local time (midnight Friday NZT) it was centred about 275km east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 355km east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 20kmh.
Florence is about 644 kilometres wide and it's winds have dropped from a peak of 225 km/h to 165 km/h, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a Category 2.
A National Weather Service forecaster has said it will be the "storm of a lifetime" for parts of the Carolina coast.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal resources for storm response.
It is an extremely unsafe, life-threatening, historic hurricane, ' North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said.
The storm has pretty much followed the forecast track through now, but the issue will be Thursday or Friday as it nears the coast and the steering currents collapse.
Models agree that excessive amounts of rain will fall in southeastern North Carolina. Rainfalls up to 40 inches (102 centimeters) in some places are expected in a region ranging from coastal North Carolina to northeastern SC, with flash flooding likely, according to the NHC. "I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas".
People in areas vulnerable to the risky hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm.
About 10 million people live in areas that have been under either hurricane or tropical storm warnings and watches. The storm's size and area affected by hazardous winds have actually expanded, and the threat from storm and rain-induced flooding "have not changed" tweeted Rick Knabb, The Weather Channel's tropical weather expert and former Hurricane Center director. North Carolina alone could get from 20 to 30 inches, with isolated spots possibly receiving 40 inches. "We're kind of at the mercy of the storm".
Duke Energy estimated earlier this week that up to 3 million of its 4 million customers in North Carolina could lose power. "We can not underestimate this storm".
In yet another reminder to those in the path of the storm, it's worth noting that Trump also said the response to last year's hurricane in Puerto Rico - which officially killed almost 3,000 people - had been "incredibly successful". The projected path shows the storm moving from near Wilmington, North Carolina to near Columbia, South Carolina.
Cooper and his SC counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been told to leave that if they don't, they are on their own. REUTERS/Randall HillDennis Kernodle talks on the phone during storm preparations of his oceanfront home ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, U.S. September 12, 2018. The actual landfall - when the center of the eye reaches land - will be Friday afternoon at the earliest, said Neil Jacobs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If the two systems become tropical storms, it would be the first time the Atlantic has had five named storms at once, Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach said.
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