Hurricane Florence prompts emergency declaration for Chatham, rest of Georgia

Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the U.S. East Coast on Sept. 12

The path of Hurricane Florence could affect the homes of more than 5 million people, and more than 1 million of them have been ordered to evacuate.

But in Maryland, possible impacts were diminishing as the storm's track shifted to the south and west. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service's Baltimore/Washington forecast office said strong winds are "unlikely to be a factor" here, and heavy rain is expected to be a risk only for Southern Maryland and to the south.

The pivot in the forecasted track of Florence led Georgia's governor to declare a state of emergency for all 159 counties, home to 10.5 million people. This storm is heading toward North and SC late Thursday into Friday.

As of 11 p.m. EST, the storm was centered 280 miles east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was moving northwest at 17 mph.

"Don't play games with it", the president told residents ahead of the storm.

Gov. Roy Cooper is reminding North Carolinians that Hurricane Florence is a storm that shouldn't be taken lightly.

"Be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas", Mr Deal said in a statement.

With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.

Helene downgraded from a Category 2 hurricane to a tropical storm Thursday.

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If the track shifts farther south, impacts could worsen to include storm surge inundation, damaging winds and excessive rainfall. At 2 p.m. on September 12, the NHC had storm surge and hurricane warnings in place for most of the North Carolina and SC coast.

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A view of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station.

"Yesterday we were looking at double-digit rainfall totals over a fairly wide area".

Parts of the region should start experiencing Florence's effects Thursday afternoon with 20-mph winds that will gust up to 30 miles per hour, Orrock said. That's because the longer this slow-moving hurricane hovers over land, the more rain it'll dump in the same places.

"There's 25% more people living between Charleston (South Carolina) and Morehead City (North Carolina) than there were when Hugo was making landfall", Myers said.

"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said.

Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird. "Also, a little creepy".

"If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible", Mayor Mitch Colvin said at a news conference.

To back up that point, Graham cited a sobering statistic: "50 percent of the fatalities in these tropical systems is the storm surge - and that's not just along the coast".

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