Much of Carolinas awash after Hurricane Florence moves in

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But the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening that the storm is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to the Carolinas as it approaches the coast Thursday and Friday.

Florence crashed into the Carolina coast on Friday, felling trees, dumping almost three feet of rain on some spots and leading to the death of four people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc. Catastrophic floods could follow if the storm stalls inland, it said.

"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion", the agency says.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in the southern USA state on Wednesday ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

Elsewhere in the nation, the East Coast is preparing for Hurricane Florence, which will be a major storm. The storm will bring dangerously high amounts of rain, forecasters say.

Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC, where some areas could see as much as 40 inches (1m) of rain, to Virginia.

That's why the North Carolina IT Department is syncing its Raleigh data center with a second facility in Forest City, in the western part of the state, said Maggie Bizzell, an agency spokeswoman.

About 245,000 Virginians who live in the storm's path have been ordered to evacuate their homes, while more than 1 million in North Carolina and SC have been told to flee.

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

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The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. The winds in Charleston, South Carolina, will start to pick up tonight and will remain fairly steady throughout the storm.

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On Tuesday afternoon, data from an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft showed that Florence's sustained winds had picked up in speed again, hovering close to 140 miles per hour. Florence is now heading for ocean water with surface temperatures of around 85 degrees, meaning it will likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.

Satellite images show Florence has maintained a distinct eye and is well-organized.

Tropical storm-force winds extended 195 miles (315 kilometers) from Florence's center, and hurricane-force winds reached out 70 miles (110 kilometers).

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

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 120-mph winds on Thursday, but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore.

The slow movement, combined with the massive amount of moisture this storm holds, will bring unsafe rains - from 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina and 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says.

Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20 inches of rain, if not more, with as much as 10 inches elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

A year ago, people would have laughed off such a forecast, but the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches for Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, so "you start to wonder what these models know that we don't", said University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy.

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