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Florence begins assault on North Carolina coastline

18 September 2018

Hurricane Florence continues to barrel toward the coast of the Carolinas as a powerful Category 2 hurricane.

But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and the likelihood of it lingering around the coast for days - would bring seawater surging on to land and torrential downpours.

"It's not going to take much in a lot of these areas to saturate the soil, so trees are going to come down really easily" and knock down power lines, said Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center. Noting the heavy bands on the hurricane's northeast quadrant, he added, "We are on the bad side of this storm".

"A Cat two moving north west at 17 miles per hour".

Hurricane Florence has now been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, with wind speeds at a destructive 110 miles per hour. For a depiction of areas at risk, please see the National Weather Service Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic, available at hurricanes.gov.

Now, there are signs that Hurricane Florence could deliver a similar blow to the East Coast beginning on Thursday, making it even more important to evacuate before the storm arrives.

Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive rainfall, the NHC said, with 20 to 30 inches, isolated 40 inches, in coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC.

Forecasters are also warning of catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, farm fields and industrial sites.

The police chief of a barrier island in Florence's approach said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave.

An evacuation traffic sign stands along a highway ahead of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018.

Myrtle Beach International Airport in SC has also suspended commercial operations, and urges passengers to check with their airlines - not the airport - about upcoming itineraries.

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

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For people who stayed behind near the coast, or find themselves facing the brunt of the storm, officials are offering safety advice.

"I'm really anxious about the storm", he said standing outside of a convenience store, where he works odd jobs in exchange for snacks, such as Hot Pockets.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles.

Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm. "It's the most deadly part of the hurricane that comes in - it causes the most amount of destruction".

A hurricane watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC.

In South Carolina, Gov. McMaster says at least 300,000 people have already evacuated.

Airlines cancelled almost 1,000 flights and counting.

Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centres to get generators, rubbish bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

"With this storm, it's a (Category 1) but the storm surge and the flooding is going to be that of a category 4", CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray said Thursday night.

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. "He is the only caregiver to me and my son", Browning said.

Hunt also said the meals the Colgate players and staff were supposed to have on the plane won't go to waste, either. "I want to get them as far away as possible".

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Florence begins assault on North Carolina coastline