Hurricane Florence seen maintaining strength as it approaches coast: NHC

Even in downgrading Florence which is expected to crash into the Carolinas late Thursday night or early Friday the National Hurricane Center predicted “life-threatening storm surge,” “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flo

Southeastern coastal North Carolina and far northeastern SC are expected to get pelted with 20 to 30 inches of rain, and some isolated spots may get up to 40 inches in 48 hours.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

In less than 24 hours, Florence has dropped from category 4 to category 2.

"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate", Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said.

Marson said they'd lost power and the winds were howling outside, but they had enough food and water to last them for days.

The water starts at her feet, rising behind her to three feet and "coming up my shins towards my waist", then to six feet and finally to nine feet, dwarfing her as she warns of the storm surge.

In addition to the coastal flood warning, a tropical storm warning is in effect for Hampton Roads from Poquoson to the Virginia-North Carolina border because of Hurricane Florence.

Maryland might dodge the extreme conditions Hurricane Florence is expected to bring to the Carolinas, but it could still rain cats and dogs here if southern shelters overflow with four-legged friends in need of new homes.

More than 10 million people live in areas under warnings or watches for hurricane- or tropical storm- force winds, CNN reports.

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The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina , Maryland and Virginia have declared emergencies. A Category 5 hurricane can generate sustained winds at 251 kilometres per hour.

Hurricane Florence weakened late Wednesday night to a Category 2 storm.

"You can't get over till we have power and we have sewer up and running", said the retired teacher and real estate agent, who rode out the hurricane in an inland hotel.

He said that the hurricane could only be captured on a super-wide lens, even from 400 kilometres up.

The news came more than 10 hours after the storm began punishing the coastal area with sustained hurricane-force winds, the hurricane center said.

As of Wednesday night, Florence's tropical storm force winds were almost 400 miles wide - or the roughly the equivalent of driving from Washington, D.C, to Charlotte, North Carolina; or from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to St. Louis; or from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The Weather Channel used the high-tech graphic to place meteorologist Erika Navarro in a virtual street, with water levels rising steadily around her.

Authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.

Despite a mandatory evacuation ordered Tuesday, emergency officials in New Bern reported that about 150 people were waiting to be rescued, and two Federal Emergency Management Agency teams were in the area, the News & Observer of Raleigh, NC, reported. But with a storm surge putting pressure on water to head back inland and heavy rains swelling those rivers, widespread flooding is the result. More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centers were moved out of the storm's path.

"These are folks who made a decision to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", she said. "Lots of water, lots of wind, lots of storm surge".

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