People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways as Florence bore down for a direct hit in the low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.
The News & Observer reports that the storm's path shifted early Wednesday and it is now bearing down on southern North Carolina and northern SC, where it could dump up to 40 inches of rain in places. "Once these winds start blowing at that tropical storm rate, it will be virtually impossible for the rescuers to get in to rescue you". At that time, almost 1,500 members were without power "primarily along the Nuese River", according to Tideland EMC, which has 22,600 accounts in Hyde, Beaufort, Pamlico, Dare, Washington and Craven counties.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate - but the window to do so in nearly over.
Florence weakened slightly to a Category 3 storm on a five-step scale but had maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour (201 km per hour) as of 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), down from 130 mph earlier in the day. Florence could bring life-threatening storm surges, up to 13 feet.
States up and down the East Coast have a great potential for severe weather.
US President Donald Trump both touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way.
The Saffir-Simpson scale that meteorologists use to measure hurricanes reflects only the wind speeds involved in the storm, and right now Hurricane Florence's winds are hovering at maximum speeds of about 110 miles per hour (175 km/h). Catastrophic river flooding and flash flooding will occur for a large portion of eastern North and SC.
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"The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline", according to the National Hurricane Center. Coastal storm surge is expected to be as high as 13 feet, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm's forward motion has slowed 11km/h since Wednesday (local time), which was predicted as the storm nears the coast.
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. And newly formed Subtropical Storm Joyce is not expected to threaten land soon. The Charleston area is under a storm surge watch. Tropical Storm Olivia made a double landfall in Hawaii Wednesday morning, first in west Maui then Lanai, KHNL reports.
Baker said the rain will bring damaging flash flooding to all areas of the Wilmington region, not just low-lying areas that are particularly vulnerable. Roper St. Francis spokesman Brian DeRoy said all of their major facilities will be open during the storm, but they ask patients with procedures scheduled to call and confirm. On an island like Puerto Rico, which has limited health care and other types of infrastructure, a hurricane's downstream effects can prove even more devastating than the initial surge.
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm, " National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said. REUTERS/Randall HillThe beach along the pier is empty ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, U.S. September 12, 2018.
"I don't care if this goes down to a Category 1".
That system could develop into a tropical depression by Thursday night.