Rain and wind from Hurricane Florence begin lashing U.S. coast

Hurricane Florence

A police vehicle patrols the beach ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. September 11, 2018. The center of the storm will likely land between Brownsville and Rockport.

Its surge of ocean water could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 13 feet, and days of downpours could unload more than three feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said storm surge warnings have not changed despite the weakening intensity of the winds.

Florence is the most unsafe of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.

About 245,000 Virginians who live in the storm's path have been ordered to evacuate their homes, while more than 1 million in North Carolina and SC have been told to flee.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border.

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For anyone needing a place to stay to escape the hurricane, both North Carolina and SC are updating their lists of emergency shelters. The downtown area was underwater.Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and tide rolled in, city public information officer Colleen Roberts said. After its initial impact, Byard said the most serious concern will be massive rainfalls that would produce unsafe inland flooding.

Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland. North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centres in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

A high-definition video camera outside the space station captured stark and sobering views of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm. "Florence is expected to slow down considerably by late Thursday into Friday, and move slowly through early Saturday".

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the hurricane center says.

Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour, the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.

Between the two cities, about two hours apart, the traffic flowed smoothly in places and became gridlocked in others because of fender-benders.

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Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20 inches of rain, if not more, with as much as 10 inches elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

"We can only hope it won't hit hard", White said.

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".

An additional 25 percent of deaths are related to rain, he said.

Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) invoked a former boxing champion to warn residents that it would bring "a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast".

"But despite that, bad things can happen when you are talking about a storm this size", he added. You never know. But we know.

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