Hurricane Florence: Storm downgraded but threat remains

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A National Weather Service forecaster said: "This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast". "This general motion, accompanied by a further decrease in forward speed, is expected to continue through today".

Forecasters said Florence's eye could come ashore early Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.

A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet (9 meters) high as Florence churned toward shore.

Hurricane Florence, with tropical storm-force winds hundreds of miles wide, began pounding the Carolina coastline on Thursday night as officials made last-minute pleas for residents to evacuate.

"That's not necessarily connected to global warming, but that's an indication of what we might see in the future more often", he said.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles. Some may say that it's not a big deal if he conflates Hurricane Florence, but the real danger comes next time a monster storm is upon us and Trump claims it is the "biggest ever" when it really is, and people won't believe him. Then, it likely will hover along the coast Saturday, pushing up to 13 feet of storm surge and dumping 20-30 inches of rain on both states before slogging over the Appalachian Mountains.

The National Weather Service says almost 5 million people could witness at least 10 inches of rain as the slow-moving storm makes slow forward progress.

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Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour, but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.

North Carolina and SC are bracing for the onslaught, which could bring storm surges as high as nine feet and rainfall of as much as 40 inches in some areas.

It's unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. Airlines cancelled almost 1000 flights and counting. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1,100 trucks.

Hurricane Florence is closing in on the Carolinas Thursday morning as more than 10 million people brace for the worst.

"I don't care if this goes down to a Category 1", CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave.

"There are lots of things they are interested in studying about the hurricane, so they have to get close to it", Smith said.

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Computer models anticipating the path of the storm are varied, adding to the uncertainty. The track could shift slightly farther south and west. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations.

The main concerns for us from Florence will be moderately heavy rainfall, which will cause flooded roadways, strong gusty winds, coastal flooding, moderate potential for downed trees and widespread power outages, and unsafe travel conditions.

With their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

"Either no (hotel) rooms are available, or we are denied because the breed or size of dogs", she said. Three other Southern raceways also opened campgrounds to evacuees.

About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million more live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.

Michele Johnson said she's anxious about her husband, but "I think he's OK with me going, so I don't stress him out more". Most other beachgoers were long gone. "Also, a little creepy".

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