Hurricane Florence weakens slightly as it moves toward US coast: NHC

Time-lapse footage captured hurricane-hunting plane fly through Florence (VIDEO)

The big slosh has begun, and the consequences could be disastrous.

Florence is expected to make landfall late Thursday or early Friday (Sept. 13 or 14), likely as a Category 3 hurricane, meaning it will have winds blowing at a minimum of 111 miles per hour (178 km/h), Samson said. Tens of thousands were without power.

Florence is a large hurricane and will affect much of North and SC. Heavy rainfall began after dark.

WILMINGTON, North Carolina-Hurricane Florence, growing in size despite its weakening winds on September 12, crept closer to the U.S. East Coast as disaster mobilizations expanded south from the Carolinas into Georgia to counter the threat of deadly high seas and calamitous floods.

STORM SURGE: 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.

Florence's nighttime winds were down to 115 miles per hour (185 kph) from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), and the Category 4 storm fell to a Category 3, with a further slow weakening expected as the storm nears the coast.

As Florence closed in, some residents weighed whether to ride it out. At this time, Florence was a Category 1 hurricane.

But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent. Today the threat becomes a reality".

Appeals to stay safe came from as far away as space as German astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted pictures of the monster storm taken from the International Space Station along with the warning: "Watch out, America!" Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire. Closer to Raleigh, Durham and Greensboro the forecast is a bit more uncertain. "We're kind of at the mercy of the storm".

Shortly after the news that the storm has changed course to affect Georgia after landfall, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to motivate citizens of the state to prepare for the risky weather.

"If we need to re-examine the evacuation, that will be something that we will be looking at between now and tomorrow morning", he said. "Because it's Mother Nature".

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20 to 30 inches will fall on southeastern North Carolina, Charlotte could see around five to 10 inches of rain. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times. The water has the potential to reach the following heights above ground if peak surge occurs at the time of high tide...

RAINFALL: Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive rainfall in the following areas...

"If they have't evacuated, evacuate they're just causing more harm to themselves then you're gonna put rescuers in harm's way", Harting said.

Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.

The storm's centre was about 50 miles south of Morehead City at around 11 p.m. (0300 GMT Friday).

"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves", the NHC said.

The ocean is moving inland ahead of Florence as storm surge begins to flood the Carolinas coast, according to the NHC.

Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm.

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.

Lumberton is less than two hours from Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, places that have been urged to evacuate. "That's it", said Jackie Hooks who evacuated Tuesday.

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