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The storm had also picked up considerable speed and was racing west at 21 miles per hour toward the Lesser Antilles. Concern was high enough for the expensive jets that the plane manufacturer flew them all the way across the U.S. to its main facility outside Seattle, Washington. The National Hurricane Center is calling for 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimetres) of rain in North Carolina, with spots up to 40 inches (100 centimetres). "It's just not anywhere near a level of Maria", forecaster Eric Blake said. "But no matter how bad it's going to be, it will pass and our job will be to rebuild this community together, and that's what we're going to do".

"Even the rescuers can not stay there", he said.

The number of people told to evacuate in the Carolinas and Virginia has been estimated at more than 1 million, according to an NPR report. "It's a big one", he said. "It's a nasty interplay that makes it very hard".

The outer bands of Hurricane Florence, a large and risky Category 2 storm and one of 9 deadly storms circling the globe, landed on the North Carolina coast Thursday morning (local time). But forecasters also said the opposite could happen when it brushed up against strong wind shear.

For the first time, researchers have calculated the impact of climate change on a hurricane before the storm is over.

It's now expected to continue weakening and dissipate in five days.

The storm is expected to affect airports in Georgia and Virginia. The storm was moving northwest at 10 miles per hour. But, Hill added, those lane reversals will end soon: "At that point, they'll shut 'em down for the incoming storm". While computer models have shifted the forecast track for the storm noticeably to the south and west, it doesn't mean the D.C. region and other parts of the mid-Atlantic states are in the clear. Some flooding was forecast early in the day for parts of North Florida, but those forecasts were adjusted later to include high swells and minor coastal flooding at high tide. On top of that, a disastrous amount of rain - 500mm, possibly even as much as 1m - is expected to fall. It's already been raining in these areas and the ground is sodden.

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Florence continued to weaken overnight but it's still a hurricane and will likely maintain that status when it reaches the shoreline, though not as Category 3 or 4 - perhaps not even as a Category 2.

The briefing said Florence "is a large hurricane" with hurricane-force winds extending 80 miles from its center and tropical storm-force winds extending 195 miles from the eye of the storm.

Although Florence has recently been downgraded to a Category 2 storm, it's still set to be devastating.

"But that's not going to be until Monday", Eliasen said".

"Power outages will linger the longest and cause the most trouble", Abrams says.

The National Hurricane Center expects hurricane-force winds to reach the coastline near the border of the two states by late Thursday or early Friday.

Conditions will deteriorate through Thursday (local time): Starting along the coast, winds will accelerate, the rain will intensify, and the ocean will surge ashore.