5 a.m. update: Hurricane Florence continues to approach Southeast coast

Hurricane Florence still poses grave threat despite weaker winds

Hurricane Florence still poses grave threat despite weaker winds

Data from the Hurricane Hunter aircraft, coastal surface observations, and NOAA Doppler radar indicate that maximum sustained winds are near 90 miles per hour with higher gusts. Despite the downgrade, Florence is expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas.

Myrtle Beach, a SC beach resort, was virtually deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic. A slow motion over eastern SC is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.

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

A turn toward the west-northwest and west at a slow forward speed is expected through Friday, followed by a slow west-southwestward motion Friday night and Saturday.

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

Florence will then recurve across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.

"I just hope that people will not decide to write off the storm, and that's the most important thing to save peoples's lives". Tropical-Storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles from the center.

"A life-threatening storm surge is now highly likely along portions of the coastlines of SC and North Carolina", the National Hurricane Center explains.

"There is going to be a lot of rain".

The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.

If the track shifts farther south, impacts could spread into southeast Georgia. The rainfall will cause prolonged significant river flooding.

While Florence's winds won't be as intense as first feared, the storm could dump as much as 3 feet of rain and generate storm surges as high as 13 feet in coastal areas, the weather service said.

At least 800 flights have been cancelled or grounded due to the storm's expected landfall, CNN reported.

Its unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

Florence is lashing the state with "heavy rainbands with tropical-storm-force winds spreading across the Outer Banks and Coastal Southeastern North Carolina", the briefing said. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the federal level Tuesday for the Carolinas and Virginia.

Although the storm is approaching the US coastline as a Category 2 hurricane after weakening from a Category 4 storm, that doesn't mean the storm will be gentle.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...

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.

He said there are about 7,000 United States military forces now ready to respond to the storm - along with ships, helicopters and high-wheeled vehicles.

The surge could reach up to nine feet in some areas along rivers, as the unsafe hurricane will pummel the shore during high tide.

SURF: Swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda, portions of the U.S. East Coast, and the northwestern and central Bahamas. The road closed Thursday afternoon when it flooded 15 hours before Florence was expected to make landfall.

The storm is also predicted to bring historic rainfall of up to 35 inches to the Wilmington region. Hurricane Helene is veering toward Europe.

The U.S. military evacuated Marine, Navy and Army bases in and around the storm's path, as thousands of Red Cross disaster aid workers and emergency linemen began arriving at the Carolina coast this week.

There are now four named storms in the Atlantic basin with subtropical storm Joyce named Wednesday, and two areas of disturbed weather with chances of development.

As of 3 a.m., Florence hadn't moved and was still centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

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