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As of Thursday at 5 a.m., forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph), reducing it from a Category 4 storm to a Category 2.

On Wednesday morning, the storm was about 550 miles from the Carolina coast and remains a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds. But forecasters say there's an increased chance for tropical storm winds to reach Savannah.

NHC Director Ken Graham warned that rivers up to 60km inland may flood.

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, with 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says.

"North Carolina, my message is clear", a grim Gov. Roy Cooper said at a briefing today.

In addition to inundating the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 4 metres along the Carolina coast, Florence could dump 51-76 cm of rain, with up to 102 cm in parts of North Carolina, the NHC said.

Another joker said: 'Looks like tropical storm Floyd has penetrated Florence, we will be having a baby shower for the little sprinkle that's due in 9 months'.

Hurricane Florence has developed into a major storm over extremely warm water, Ginis said. Executives in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia declared emergencies earlier in the week.

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This is when Hurricane Florence is expected to be closest to us.

Residents in coastal areas should follow evacuation orders from local officials because of the potential for life-threatening storm surge flooding.

All of this has led to fears that the state could face an environmental disaster if industrial waste - including hog manure and coal ash - is washed into people's homes.

More than 10 million people are under a storm watch or warning in Virginia and the Carolinas, where up to 40 inches of rain could fall.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughters one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

Florence will be, in all likelihood, the most intense storm to strike the region in at least 25 years, since Hugo. "Everybody is trying to get out of the coast", she said. He says: "If Mama and Grandma are going, then a lot of people are leaving". As it turns into southern SC.

The prison, home to nearly 1,000 prisoners and up to 119 staff, was ordered to stay put even during an initial mandatory evacuation for surrounding Jasper County.