Florence weakens to Category 2 hurricane but still life-threatening: NHC

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As of 3 PM EST Thursday, the National Weather Service (NWS) warns that "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall" is expected as "winds and rough surf continue to increase along the outer banks and coastal southeastern North Carolina".

Hurricane Florence is continuing to push towards a landfall around the North Carolina/South Carolina border, and is beginning to lash the central Atlantic seaboard with damaging winds and storm surge.

She is now one of a glut of tropical storms in the Atlantic, with Florence sparking mass evacuations as she heads towards landfall in the USA states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

The hurricane is located about 165 miles (270 km) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (165 km per hour), it added.

Despite the fact that the hurricane has been downgraded to Category 2, the 80 miles per hour winds and coastal flooding will still cause significant damage throughout the southeast.

Florence should continue losing strength as it menders along the coast, weakening further as the storm travels across inland SC on Saturday, the weather service said.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for the South Santee River in SC to Duck, North Carolina, and Albemarle and Pamlico sounds.

"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference.

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

Hurricane Florence, they found, will grow about 50 miles (80 kilometers) larger and will dump 50 percent more rain over a period from September 11 to September 16 than it would have in a world before climate change. "The combination of a risky storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline".

The hurricane centre's best guess was that Florence's eye would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon (Saturday NZT) around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. "These enormous waves are produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction as the storm's motion". Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely risky storm for rain and storm surge.

The US Coast Guard said it closed the ports of Wilmington and Moorehead City in North Carolina and restricted port operations in Charleston, South Carolina.

The storm's forward motion has slowed 11km/h since Wednesday (local time), which was predicted as the storm nears the coast.

"We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge", CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. Again, the category may have been downgraded, but the storm surge could still rise up to 13 feet, which is enough to flood homes up to the first floor ceiling.

"Either no (hotel) rooms are available, or we are denied because the breed or size of dogs", she said. Some flooding was forecast early in the day for parts of North Florida, but those forecasts were adjusted later to include high swells and minor coastal flooding at high tide.

Near the beach in Wilmington, a Waffle House restaurant, part of a chain with a reputation for staying open during disasters, had no plans to close, even if power is lost.

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

The head of Duke Energy Corp.'s North Carolina operations says it could take weeks to restore electricity if the company's prediction that 1 million to 3 million of its 4 million customers lose power.

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