North Carolina coast feels Florence's first blast of wind, rain

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Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday at 100 miles per hour (170 km per hour) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 mph (224 kph) earlier this week when it was classified a Category 4 storm.

"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged, significant river flooding", the hurricane centre said.

Hurricane Florence has weakened to a Category 2 storm as it approaches landfall in the USA - but it is very slow moving and could linger the coastline bringing catastrophic flooding and heavy losses to insurers.

A surge is also likely along portions of the SC coast.

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.

The "threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days" in the impacted areas.

After that, Florence is forecast to move northwest and north and move across western SC on Sunday, Sept. 15, and across western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee on Monday, Sept. 16, the NHC said.

Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of most of the state's coastline as the storm approaches. It then will move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC in the hurricane warning area later Thursday and Friday. It will then move along the "spine of the Appalachians".

"The storm surge forecast associated with this storm has not changed".

Roads and intersections on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands were already inundated with water. That said, the storm still brought powerful storm surges and risky flooding.

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The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore. It is poised to slow to a crawl there and then drift to the southwest, unloading disastrous amounts of rain.

"This storm is relentless and excruciating", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told CNN late on Friday.

"We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge". Forecasters are predicting as much as 40in of rain in some localized areas. This is a life-threatening situation.

People in areas vulnerable to the unsafe hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm. "Super storm Sandy resulted in 20,000 cancellations to/from the New England region and there were 11,000 flights cancelled to/from Houston during Hurricane Harvey". The power company has warned that up to 3 million people could be left without power for an extended period of time following Hurricane Florence. Evacuation orders are in place in the Carolinas and Virginia, and Georgia is in a state of emergency.

The storm will be a test of President Donald Trump's administration less than two months before elections to determine control of Congress.

NOAA also has a collection of live feeds, which include Buxton in North Carolina, and Cherry Beach and Folly Beach in SC.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Edisto Beach South Carolina to South Santee River South Carolina.

The full impact of the storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.

Despite all the warnings from numerous authorities, some residents say are planning to ride out the storm.

The East Coast isn't the only area facing the brunt of a storm. It's now predicted to make landfall near Wilmington and then head west across SC. Chris Horne, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer, S.C., says the best chance for the heaviest rainfall will be Saturday night and Sunday.

Tropical Storm Isaac is also moving westward across the eastern Caribbean. Florence is now a strong Category 2 storm. Weakening is expected after the center moves inland. The NHC is encouraging officials in northeastern Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to monitor its progress. That system could develop into a tropical depression by Friday.

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