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"Little change in strength is expected before the eye of Florence reaches the coast, with weakening expected after the center moves inland", the Miami-based NHC said.

Utility companies are predicting power outages that could reach between one-to-three million across both North and SC for days and possibly weeks.

As Hurricane Florence begins to hammer the Carolinas, a few fliers managed to escape the storms path, arriving at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Thursday just before the hurricane is predicted to made landfall.

A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia and the U.S. capital Washington.

So instead of making the trip from Hamilton, New York to SC, the Colgate Raiders, members of the Patriot League, released all of their hotel rooms and requested the team's meals be given to the new hotel guests. Officials say they have almost 300 employees on standby.

Fema administrator Brock Long told Thursday morning's news conference that while Florence's wind speed had dipped, its wind field had expanded and total rainfall predictions were unchanged. Winds will be offshore, so storm surge flooding will be nothing to worry about.

The hurricane center also said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rains could trigger landslides in the western part of his state. We're on the weak, dry side of the storm.

Conditions are rapidly deteriorating along the coast of the Carolinas as Florence approaches.

Apple Donates $1 Million to the Red Cross for Hurricane Florence Response
Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday. The National Hurricane Center says the eyewall of Hurricane Florence is beginning to reach the North Carolina coast.

Salvo, NC to North Carolina/Virginia Border: 2-4′. "This is low tide, and it looks like high tide", she said. On the inland side facing the river, Cramer says rising waters will very likely be "lapping at the first floor of our elevated homes". She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew.

This vulnerable area has been under mandatory-evacuation orders since Wednesday night at 8 p.m., and those who are choosing to ride out the storm have been under a mandatory curfew since that time, to keep people inside.

"This time it's important. If I can't get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place".

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. Millions of people were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks. Among the tips: Prepare a safety kit and avoid driving through floodwater.

"What we've seen as far as people actually evacuating, just from monitoring evacuation routes, seems there's been a pretty light amount of people evacuating", Ms. Norton said.

Steve Goldstein with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Florence's forward motion had slowed overnight, and it was not expected to make landfall in the Carolinas for "another 36 hours".

"We were going to have Chick-fil-A delivered to the airplane after the game but have sent instructions that those meals be distributed wherever it could do the most good". "We've already got ice; the cooler's packed". Florence is still a Category 2 hurricane.

"We lost power at home so we figured we should come to the bar", said Carla Mahaffee, a 33-year-old actor from Wilmington, as she drank a cider.