Hurricane Florence begins battering the Carolinas

The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Florence to a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour expected.

In the meantime, "treat the inland flooding just as seriously as you would the storm surge", said Clark.

The main concerns for us from Florence will be moderately heavy rainfall, which will cause flooded roadways, strong gusty winds, coastal flooding, moderate potential for downed trees and widespread power outages, and unsafe travel conditions.

The NHC categorises hurricanes of category three and above as major storms.

"So this is a very unsafe storm", said Mr Long.

The hurricane's surge could cover large swathes of the Carolina coast under as much as 11ft (3.3m) of seawater. "Many that will accept them only allow one per room".

Heavy bands of rain and tropical storm force winds are sweeping across the barrier islands off North Carolina and along the southeastern coast of the state.

"I like helping people, and I've had people help me so this is my way of giving back", she said.

Forecasters said Florence's eye could come ashore early Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.

Hurricane Florence will be one of the biggest storms to make landfall along the U.S. eastern seaboard in decades. "Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill".

We hear from WCNC meteorologist Brad Panovich to get the latest on the storm and talk with reporters in Charlotte and on the coast about conditions. But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

The center of the storm is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast by Friday.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

Her neighbors gave her the key to their house, which is two stories and might be safer from flooding, she said.

Dozens of North Carolina school districts were closed, as well as almost all schools in the University of North Carolina system. The federal response was especially criticized following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, which even a year later is still struggling to restore even basic services. "Today the threat becomes a reality".

"If you find yourself here [in rising floodwaters], you need to get out", she said.

Storm surge warnings were issued from South Santee River in SC to Duck, North Carolina.

The town is less than 5 feet above sea level, and officials worry that as many as 1,000 of its 6,300 residents are planning to stay.

"The shelters are not taking dogs", Ramirez said.

Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.

Despite reassurances from FEMA and Trump, Florence's fluctuations and course-change predictions have added to the difficulties of preparing for such a massive storm.

It's unclear exactly how many people fled ahead of the storm, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

Vanessa Coleman

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