Hurricane Florence now category 3 storm

A view from the International Space Station of Hurricane Florence off the US east coast in the Atantic Ocean

Most of the North and SC coastlines are under storm surge and hurricane warnings or watches.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 3 storm on Wednesday as peak winds eased to 125 miles per hour (205 kilometers per hour), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast", the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote on September 11. The list of canceled football games included No. 13 Virginia Tech's home game against East Carolina, No. 14 West Virginia's trip to North Carolina State and No. 18 UCF's visit to North Carolina.

Florence is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 15 to 20 inches and possibly 30 inches in some spots along its track over portions of North Carolina, Virginia and northern SC through Saturday.

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

It's unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

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

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At 2 a.m., the storm was centered 625 miles (1,005 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph (28 kph). About 1.7 million residents have been urged to flee from parts of North and SC .

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We will have tropical storm force winds and rain and storm surge continues to be our main concern with extreme flooding. The ground is saturated with water and unlikely able to withstand the heavy, persistent rains that are expected.

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Florence is expected to make landfall late Thursday night or early Friday morning, Mountain Time, somewhere between Atlantic Beach, NC and Savannah, GA.

Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave. He said all the calls for reservations were coming from either SC and North Carolina where the damage is supposed to be the worst.

Emergency preparations in the area included activating 2,800 National Guard troops in North Carolina, stockpiling food, setting up shelters, switching traffic patterns so that major roads led away from shore and securing 16 nuclear power reactors in the three-state region.

Wilmington, North Carolina, just north of where the hurricane is expected to come ashore, was sunny around midday on Wednesday as the town appeared to be emptying.

Winds will be at least 100 miles per hour as the storm approaches the coast. "It's going to happen. We just need to figure out how to make it through".

Make-up days will be designated at a later time, according to school officials. Shelters in the city were filling and some people were being bused inland to Raleigh, even though some residents there were told they might have to evacuate because of flooding. "It's a big one", he 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".

Sib McLellan, left, and his wife, Lisa, prepare for Hurricane Florence. The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore. When Hurricane Floyd made landfall near Cape Fear in 1999 as a Category 2 storm, bloated carcasses of hundreds of thousands of hogs, chickens and other drowned livestock bobbed in a nose-stinging soup of fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizer and gasoline so toxic that fish flopped helplessly to escape it. Smaller enclaves of Gullah, referred to as Geechee in some areas, are scattered along the Southeast coast from North Carolina to Florida.

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