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Wind and rain from Florence's leading edge lash Carolinas - International

Wind and rain from Florence's leading edge lash Carolinas - International

Florence's nighttime winds were down to 110 miles per hour from a high of 140 miles per hour, and the Category 3 storm fell to a Category 2, with a further slow weakening expected as the storm nears the coast.

As of Wednesday night, Florence's tropical storm force winds were almost 400 miles wide - or the roughly the equivalent of driving from Washington, D.C, to Charlotte, North Carolina; or from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to St. Louis; or from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to Category 2 storm on Thursday, but forecasters cautioned that the mammoth storm still poses a major threat to millions of people.

Storm surges up to 3.9 meters (13 feet), the possibility of tornados and nearly a meter of rain in some areas of North and SC were expected when Hurricane Florence makes landfall late Thursday.

Rainfall will accumulate near 2 feet in North Carolina.

And the storm surge, which could be as much as 12 feet in some areas, will be on top of sea level rise from climate change. Rather than pushing up toward western Virginia, the storm's center is now predicted to move across eastern SC on Friday night and Saturday.

"It does look a bit similar to Harvey in a sense that it goes roaring into shore and then comes to a screeching stop", said MIT meteorology professor and hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel.

Town Manager Mike Cramer said law enforcement officers will try to assess how many people are still on the island immediately south of Wilmington.

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia. It had maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (215 kmh).

After Hurricane Harvey dropped a record-breaking 27 trillion gallons of rain on Texas previous year, scientists are predicting that an increase in moisture will be expected from these storms in our warming world.

Bertha Bradley said she has never favoured evacuating ahead of hurricanes. She packed up what she could and took a ferry Tuesday night.

There was also concern over crops.

"The traffic control points or lane reversals are still in effect", said Joseph Hill, police chief in Horry County, S.C., at a news conference Wednesday in Myrtle Beach.

The slow forward motion means Florence will batter the area with heavy rainfall, producing up to 40 inches in coastal North Carolina and northeastern SC. Another, stronger high-pressure system to the north, forced Florence west and allowed it to head toward the Carolinas.

Hurricane Florence's winds began whipping coastal North Carolina on Thursday as the slow-moving tempest began to unleash fierce rains that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the US southeast.

The storm will be a test of President Donald Trump's administration less than two months before elections to determine control of Congress. The governor added that a million or more people could be evacuated before the end of the storm.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's message is pretty blunt: If you live in an evacuation zone, hit the road soon.

Florence's expanse has even captured the attention of the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station, who have been tweeting pictures of the storm back to Earth.

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. The storm is predicted to dump up to 10 trillion gallons of rain over the affected areas, enough to cause "catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding". "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".

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