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

This enhanced satellite image made available by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence off the eastern coast of the United States on Wednesday Sept. 12 2018 at 5:52 p.m. EDT

Watch Hurricane Florence on live cameras as it lashes the Carolinas coast | The Herald Sun

The wide storm has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane and forecasters expect top winds to drop more as it nears the shore, but they're sharing a giant dose of uncertainty.

As of 8 a.m., the Category 2 storm was centered about 170 miles (275 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 220 miles (355 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 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.

As of 8am ET on Thursday, Florence was driving maximum sustained winds of 110mph (177km/h), according to an updated forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

The slow-moving storm is expected to bring hurricane winds to America's east coast within 24 hours.

The storm is expected to slowly move into North and SC on Thursday, and conditions are expected to get worse.

Hurricane expert Dr Rick Knabb warns: "Yes good news that intensity of Florence has come down, to lessen wind damage somewhat".

"I've never seen the president and all these other people talk the way they're talking", he said while waiting for an evacuation bus.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

THE life-threatening hurricane, Florence, is expected to hover the Carolinas in the U.S. with torrential rains, high winds and massive coastal erosion. "Today the threat becomes a reality", he said. "Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles (130 km) from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles (315 km)".

Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly to a Category 2 storm, but don't be fooled, it's still incredibly risky.

"This is a horrific nightmare storm from a meteorological perspective", University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd said. But previous research has shown that the strongest hurricanes are getting wetter, more intense and intensifying faster because of human-caused climate change.

Anxious about how the government will respond to Hurricane Florence's devastation? The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1,100 trucks.

Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that was later downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a Wilmington hotel several miles inland.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably a 7" in terms of worry, she said. "I've got four cats inside the house".

The police chief of a barrier island in Florence's bulls'-eye said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave. "I'm going to get killed on the road, '" Bradley said.

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