Hurricane Florence leaves hundreds of thousands without power in North Carolina

Time nearly up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at southeast US

Time nearly up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at southeast US

Florence became a risky Category 3 hurricane Wednesday afternoon before it downgraded to a Category 2 Wednesday night with winds at 110mph. But authorities warned Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely risky.

As of 8 a.m., the hurricane is predicted to make landfall along the coast of the Carolinas tomorrow (Sept. 14), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as merely a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 160 km/h, but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.

Hurricane Florence, still a potentially deadly Category 2 hurricane, continued its destructive path for the Carolinas on Thursday and was expected to make landfall sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast day after day - will bring seawater surging onto land and torrential downpours. "Don't play games with it". One emergency official said it will be a "Mike Tyson punch" to the area.

The hurricane centre said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore.

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. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1100 trucks.

Body surfer Andrew Vanotteren, of Savannah, Georgia, crashes into waves from Hurricane Florence, Wednesday, September 12, 2018, on the south beach of Tybee Island, Georgia.

Duke Energy told Fox News 3 million customers, which represents about 75 percent of their customers in the Carolinas, could lose power. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storms aftermath, it said.

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

"In 12 or 18 hours, they may be saying different things all over again", he said.

Added Chris: "I think with what we know right now [with the storm track] this is the best decision for us".

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued.

"This is a attractive beach here I can't imagine how it's going to be when we come back", homeowner Sheryl Andrews said.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly.

Like many other officials in the storm's path, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said no one will be able to save at-risk residents if they choose to ride out the storm. Unsure of what they might find when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter. "We have two boats and all our worldly possessions", said Susan Patchkofsky, who refused her family's pleas to evacuate and stayed at Emerald Isle with her husband.

Some Florence evacuees are steering toward Bristol Motor Speedway near the Tennessee-Virginia border and Atlanta Motor Speedway, where campgrounds have been opened for people fleeing the storm.

Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast. Then it is likely to hover along the coast Saturday, pushing up to 13 feet (nearly 4 meters) of storm surge and unloading water on both states.

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. GOES-East is one many satellites in orbit tracking the hurricane as it approaches the Carolinas.

"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said.

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