The outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday (Friday NZ Time) as the monster storm moved in for an extended stay along the Southeastern coast, promising to drench the properties of 10 million people with vast amounts of water.
As of Thursday at 8 a.m., forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph), reducing it from a Category 4 storm to a Category 2.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence had maximum sustained winds of about 175 kilometers per hour (108 mph) early Thursday, and that it would maintain about that level until the center of the storm makes landfall.
Gradually, Friday through the weekend (local time), the massive storm - containing a zone of tropical-storm-force winds almost 643km wide - will drift inland, engulfing much of SC and southern North Carolina. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachians, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
"I've watched all the weather and read the local stuff", another resident said.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in the state.
As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
"This is no ordinary storm, and people could be without power for a very long time - not days but weeks", a president of one energy company in North Carolina said on Wednesday.
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Besides inundating the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 4m along the Carolina coast, Florence could dump 51cm to 76cm of rain, with up to 1m in parts of North Carolina, the NHC said.
Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station as it churns in the Atlantic Ocean towards the east coast of the United States, September 10, 2018.
After criticism for its response in Puerto Rico to last year's Hurricane Maria, which officials there said was responsible for 3,000 deaths, Trump has vowed a vigorous response to Florence and defended his handling of Maria. 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. In addition to the hurricane's obvious risks, the National Weather Service says, "A few tornadoes are possible in eastern North Carolina through Friday".
Cooper also announced there are 2,800 National Guard troops in different staging areas of North Carolina.
Duke Energy, the second-largest energy company in the USA, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its four million customers in the Carolinas.
"People go through a lot of stress because of what could happen to their property, their workplace, their vehicles".
"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.
"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate, " Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said. "But no matter how bad it's going to be, it will pass and our job will be to rebuild this community together". Between both Carolinas, there is a total of 6,400 guardsmen on duty ahead of the storm.
A storm surge watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC, and for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border. For public safety, our live streams will be available to all residents of North Carolina.