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Hurricane Florence has weakened to a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with little change in strength expected before it moves inland on Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned people: "Today the threat becomes a reality". "Catastrophic effects will be felt".
The city said two Federal Emergency Management Agency teams were working on swift-water rescues and more were on the way.
Early on Friday, the downtown area of the city of New Bern, on the Trent and Neuse rivers near the North Carolina coast, was underwater as emergency crews conducted several rescues, according to reports on social media.
"However, intense rainbands are expected to develop over the Atlantic waters and keep moving along the coast and inland, likely producing strong wind gusts through Saturday (Sept. 15) night", said the NHC in a discussion of the storm.
Long-duration, damaging wind gusts of 55 miles per hour or greater and saturated ground may cause a tremendous amount of trees to fall and lead to widespread power outages from the southern tip of Delmarva to Charleston, South Carolina and as far inland as Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, to Columbia, South Carolina.
Florence was 155 miles (250km) east of Myrtle Beach in SC at 17:00 EDT (21:00 GMT), and is projected to make landfall on Friday at 08:00 local time.
Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School.
"[We're] letting people know if they do choose to stay and the weather deteriorates, it's going to limit our [emergency] response", she said. "If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing".
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Accusing the Sinn Fein MEP of "whinging", Mr Wilson continued: "This is only in the event of a no-deal Brexit". The other 27 members of the European Union combined have about five times the economic might of Britain.
At Least 5 Dead from Hurricane Florence
Along the coast, floodwaters have been hitting inland towns near rivers that normally discharge into the ocean. At the same time, some areas can see up to 15 inches of rain, with a few places experiencing up to 30 inches.
"We lost power at home so we figured we should come to the bar", said Carla Mahaffee, a 33-year-old actor from Wilmington, as she drank a cider.
Florence is about 60 miles (95 km) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph), the Miami-based weather forecaster said. In New Bern, on the Neuse River, a CNN team had to keep shifting position in a park as the water kept rising until it was too risky to stay in the area. Parts of the Carolinas could see 50 cm to 76 cm, with isolated areas getting 101 cm, over seven days along the coast.
"Your time is running out", he warned those who had not yet heeded the warning to evacuate.
Long said the danger was not only along the coast. And because Hurricane Florence has the potential to stall, it could inflict a lot more damage and cause more severe flooding in North Carolina than Floyd did 19 years ago.
In certain parts of the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline (particularly the Wilmington, NC and Myrtle Beach, SC area), storm surges are predicted to be higher than ten feet.
Almost 2 million coastal residents are now under mandatory evacuation orders, although it remains unclear how many have actually done so.
In Norfolk, Virginia, police were alerted to people dressed in fluorescent vests going door to door and telling residents that they had to leave their homes and businesses, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
"Because of the size of the storm we are going to see impacts to nearly every customer in north Carolina", Davis Montgomery, the district manager for Duke Energy, said.
Some people, such as Jennie, are refusing to heed evacuation warnings.