Threatening Hurricane Florence inches closer to landfall in North Carolina

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HurricaneFlorence is inflicting its long, agonizing assault on the North Carolina coast, with winds whipping at 90 miles per hour and life-threatening storm surge pushing ashore as the lumbering storm's eyewall begins to reach the coast.

It was expected to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, whose river was forecast by Monday to reach two feet above the record level it hit during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the National Weather Service said.

The impact of Florence will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, unsafe surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.

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

In the 5 a.m. ET advisory, Florence was 205 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, NC, packing maximum-sustained winds of 110 mph and moving to the northwest at 15 mph. Hurrican Helen, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Subtropical Storm Joyce are all churning.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned residents not to "underestimate" Florence's power.

The powerful storm inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power. "Today the threat becomes a reality".

Some people who had rejected calls to evacuate the targeted area took walks along the water as they tried to enjoy a few final hours of normalcy before Florence's fury arrived.

"Don't relax, don't get complacent.

I'm going to get killed on the road, '" Bradley said.

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One resident, 67-year-old Linda Smith, told the MailOnline: "We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now. I just figured come here and be safe".

"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said.

Screaming winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge whipped the coast Thursday to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

North Carolina is the largest tobacco grower and ranks second among USA states in hog inventory and producing broiler chickens.

"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

The storm will be a test of President Donald Trump's administration less than two months before elections to determine control of Congress. Residents are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew and communities with financial struggles are slow to rebuild after a major disaster.

"I've never been one to leave for a storm but this one kind of had me spooked", Epperson said. The highest numbers are being reported in New Hanover County.

Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.

Even with millions of customers embracing mobile and digital offerings from banks - like peer-to-peer payment platforms such as Venmo and Zelle - many still take out and deposit cash in person or get paid via check rather than direct deposit.

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