Hurricane Florence crawling toward the Carolinas, coastal water levels rising

Time nearly up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at southeast US

Hurricane Florence: Outer Banks of North Carolina begin to feel effects of powerful storm

Hurricane Florence's initial assault on the North Carolina coast is underway.

Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified a Category 4 storm. The storm surge could rise up to 13 feet - that's water inundating homes up to the first-floor ceiling, the National Hurricane Center said.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, Florence was centered about 145 miles (230 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 10 mph (17 kph).

The Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower, an old Coast Guard tower 32 miles off the coast of southeastern North Carolina, is broadcasting live with a solar-powered camera.

"The latest forecast brings the center of Florence close to the southeast North Carolina coast on Friday, then Florence is expected to drift slowly southwest to west over the weekend." reads a release from the NWS.

North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper, said Florence was set to cover nearly all of the state in several feet of water. Hurricane Florence deserves all the names it's being called as it threatens to cause historic flooding, blow catastrophic winds and idle for days over the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic. We've assembled a list of options below and will update it as we find more.

Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall.

Many people in coastal communities have followed the mandatory evacuation orders, but some are vowing to stay put and ride it out.

Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its four million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.

Along the North and SC coasts, many have evacuated from their homes, but some are scrambling to finish last-minute preparations as time is running out to evacuate safely. Forecasters said the onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas. "This is an extremely unsafe situation".

But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

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And about 46 miles farther up the waterfront, in New Bern, about 150 people were waiting to be rescued from floods on the Neuse River, WXII-TV reported.

"Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience".

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Prisoners were affected, too.

North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from prisons and juvenile detention centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

It's unclear exactly how many people evacuated, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be under a hurricane or storm advisory, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center, and businesses and homes in the storm's path were boarded up in anticipation. Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers.

A simulation of Florence for Saturday as the storm tracks over SC. The Saffir-Simpson scale that meteorologists use to measure hurricanes reflects only the wind speeds involved in the storm, and right now Hurricane Florence's winds are hovering at maximum speeds of about 110 miles per hour (175 km/h).

While the storm weakened, forecasters still predict up to 9 feet of storm surge in the Myrtle Beach area.

The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

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