Florence Shifts, Taking Southerly Route Closer To Charlotte

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GOES-East is one many satellites in orbit tracking the hurricane as it approaches the Carolinas.

Hurricane Florence remains on track to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to coastal North and SC, the National Weather Service says.

At a press conference Thursday morning, officials stressed that Hurricane Florence's wind speed may have fallen, but the danger has not.

Forecasters have warned of life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic flooding, damaging winds, and unsafe rip currents along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

"The magnitude of the storm is beyond what we have seen in years", said Howard Fowler, Duke Energy's incident commander.

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.

Instead of pushing directly towards states like West Virgina, Kentucky, or IN (following a generally northwest track from its initial landfall), Florence may now stall out on top of SC before moving west or southwest towards Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that storm surge watches and warnings are in effect Wednesday for the entire North Carolina coast and parts of SC.

The center of Florence is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday. Weather forecasters also warn that the threat of tornadoes is increasing as the system draws closer to land. A tropical storm warning covers the area from north of Duck to the Virgina Tidewater area.

The Category 2 storm is set to hit the U.S. East Coast with winds of up to 215 km/h.

US President Donald Trump both touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way.

"Don't play games with it". Meacham says the state can house more than 35,000 people if needed.

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The first large power outage in the Wilmington area also occurred Thursday morning, with the Duke outage map showing almost 1,400 customers in the Acme-Delco area of Columbus County and northwest Brunswick County without power. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1100 trucks.

REUTERS/Randall HillGordon Roberts works to prepare his oceanfront home ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, U.S. September 12, 2018. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

Mayor Joe Benson said the storm will batter Carolina Beach through two high-tide periods.

"Things will not be normal for several says", he said.

Hurricane Florence pushes its way towards the Carolinas coast.

Adding to the storm stress is uncertainty about where exactly Florence will make landfall, after a shift in its track put more of the Southeast in danger.

Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of most of the state's coastline as the storm approaches.

"It's all going to be predicated on where the damage is at, in terms of how and where we deploy our resources", said Penn.

The National Weather Service is forecasting "significant" river flooding, especially in the northeastern portion of the state.

With their entire neighbourhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte. "We just want prayers from everyone".

"We thought it was going to be easy [to forecast]", Kourounis said.

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