While hurricane-force winds can rip the roofs off houses, it is the water-storm surge, inland flooding, surf and drowning at sea-that kills almost 9 out of 10 people in hurricanes like Florence.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference that the "historic" hurricane would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state in several feet of water, Reuters reports. "Today the threat become reality".
Experts agreed that despite Florence losing some power, it was still poised to sow just as much destruction - if not more.
With the brunt of the slow-moving storm yet to come, about 150 people were awaiting rescue in New Bern, a city near the coast, where a gauge on the Neuse River recorded three metres of inundation, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending", Cooper said. "Inland flooding kills a lot of people unfortunately and that's what we're about to see".
The center of the storm is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast by Friday.
"It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave", said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.
Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.
"While we expect an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 40 inches of rain, extensive inland flooding and storm surge flooding from Florence, Hurricane Harvey unleashed more than 60 inches of rain locally centered around the United States' fourth largest city, Houston, which has a population of 2.3 million", AccuWeather Founder and President Dr. Joel N. Myers said. Despite the downgrade, Florence is expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas. They are under mandatory evacuation but have made a decision to wait out the storm.
Overcrowded animal shelters in some North Carolina districts were facing a more grim prospect: euthanizing animals that can't be shipped to safety.
"It's not like we're not taking it seriously", Mrs. Mramer told The Washington Times. "That's why we're begging for assistance". A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said.
Empty stores and packed houses alike sit boarded up and bolstered with sandbags, and the streets are empty with curfews in effect in many areas. Forecasters are predicting as much as 40in of rain in some localized areas.
Many of them were staging at the Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons.
"This is going to be a bad, bad situation". "They need to shelter in place". Some roads were already impassable in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
"You are taking the ocean and raising it", said storm surge expert Hal Needham, director of Marine Weather and Climate in Miami.
Authorities typically say those who ignore evacuation orders are "on their own" should an emergency occur before first responders can be deployed.
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