Grand Strand sees first power outages as Hurricane Florence nears coast

United States forecasters late Thursday downgraded Hurricane Florence to a Category 1 storm, as its outer edge lashed the Carolinas with strong winds and heavy rain. It is forecast to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, at midday Friday.

Forecasters continue to warn of storm surges, excessive rainfall and catastrophic flash flooding.

Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, N.C., September 13, 2018.

In Wilmington, North Carolina, a steady rain began to fall as gusts of winds intensified, causing trees to sway and stoplights to flicker.

Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.

On Thursday evening, Florence's forward movement was just 5mph.

Some minor flooding was reported on the Outer Banks - barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina - and in some seaside coastal towns, as more than 110,000 power outages were reported statewide.

Even if you didn't know that the powerful storm is forecast to gain strength as it hits the coast on Friday, or that it will dump several months of rain onto the region in a mere few days, or that the storm surge could reach as high as 9 to 13 ft.

Adding to concerns, forecasters warned the larger and slow-moving storm could linger for days around the coast, leaving many without power and supplies.

General O'Shaughnessy said there were about 7,000 U.S. military personnel now in place and ready to respond to the storm, along with ships, helicopters, high-wheeled vehicles and other equipment.

Images captured with a wide-angle lens on board the Space Station have shown the mind-boggling scale of Hurricane Florence as it nears America's East Coast. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

Roughly 1 million people are under evacuation orders.

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. "If you're told to go, you need to go".

Another Wilmington resident said she does not want to leave because she is afraid to see what she would be coming back to.

American Airlines said it had canceled more than 800 flights from Wednesday through Sunday because of the storm. "We're fully prepared. Food, medical, everything you can imagine, we are ready". Projections from the National Weather Service show the storm moving into SC late Friday into Saturday.

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