Hurricane Florence pounds the Carolinas as it nears landfall

People walk on a local street as water from Neuse River starts flooding houses upon Hurricane Florence coming ashore in New Bern North Carolina

"All across the state of North Carolina and portions of SC, there will be extreme flooding or major flooding at least for a number of days to come".

Florence should continue losing strength as it menders along the coast, weakening further as the storm travels across inland SC on Saturday, the weather service said. Florence is now a strong Category 2 storm.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images A auto goes through a flooded street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, United States on September 13, 2018.

It is set to make landfall midday today near Cape Fear, North Carolina, bringing up to 40 inches of rain, and storm surges as high as 13ft. "We can not underestimate this storm". He added later, "Most of the fatalities in these tropical systems is water".

The storm's center was about 165 miles (265 km) east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands. It is an enormous storm, and it's moving slowly. As if the storm itself is not risky enough, it is expected to spawn tornadoes in southeast North Carolina on Thursday and Friday.

Janey Camp, a research associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University, said the "biggest concern" for those not along the coast "is the deluge of precipitation that comes with" hurricanes.

He added: "This is a very unsafe storm". When fierce winds keep up for a long time, homes are "going to start to deteriorate". GETTY IMAGES |AFPAbout 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by what officials called a "once in a lifetime" storm.

The center said that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation.

Despite the drop in maximum sustained winds, forecasters stress that this hurricane is not to be taken lightly.

Tens of thousands of people are already without power. Officials are urging others in its path to follow suit, or prepare for the worst.

At a press conference Thursday morning, officials stressed that Hurricane Florence's wind speed may have fallen, but the danger has not. Sand dunes gone storm surge 4' into house knocking down walls first floor.

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

Separately, Toronto-Dominion Bank said it will close 17 of its 61 branches in SC and two of 14 in North Carolina. Florence has weakened a bit over 24 hours, but it's also grown even larger - and it will likely dump torrential rain over North and SC through Monday. A surge of at least 4 feet is predicted for a much larger area.

Even though the storm may weaken to a Category 1 or Category 2 storm, widespread damage is expected.

Cooper also announced there are 2,800 National Guard troops in different staging areas of North Carolina.

USA carriers were also waiting to see what impact Florence could have on airports near Washington and in northern Virginia.

National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear said in a video briefing North Carolina would see the equivalent of up to eight months of rain in a two- to three-day period.

Even if Florence were downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, it would still cause extensive damage, Abrams says.

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