Hurricane Florence weakens to Category 2 storm, closing in on US

A National Weather Service satellite monitoring Hurricane Florence has recorded a wave reaching 83 feet in the storm churning in the Atlantic Ocean. It's big and vicious.

Life-threatening storm surges of up to 3.9 metres were also forecast in some areas of North Carolina along with the possibility of tornadoes.

"Protection of life is the absolute highest priority", he added. "We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able". "If they're telling you to leave, you have to leave", Graham said.

There are concerns that it could knock out power for weeks.

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia. State parks and museums across the region closed, while prisoners in state and county jails were moved out of the storm's path and given a free phone call to family. Authorities in Chatham County, Georgia, which borders SC and includes the historic port city of Savannah, urged residents who feel unsafe "to evacuate as they see fit".

Preparations to evacuate the facility's residents had begun late last week, days before South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued mandatory evacuation orders.

A long stretch of the US Eastern Seaboard remained vulnerable to hurricane and tropical storm conditions, from Georgia north through the Carolinas into Virginia.

At the White House, President Donald Trump both touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way of Florence.

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"As soon as we get any type of notice", he said, "we start contacting families".

Forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast of the Carolinas, carrying days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC to Virginia.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center's best guess was that Florence would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then slog its rainy way westward with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses and farm fields. For example, the seas off of Wilmington, North Carolina have risen 7.5 inches since 1935, according to NOAA.

Residents are anxiously waiting for the storm to approach. "It's going to happen. We just need to figure out how to make it through".

In Wilmington, New Hanover County officials said they had contacted every individual who has registered on its special-needs list - people who need oxygen to breathe or are confined to beds - to make sure they have a safe place to stay during the storm, in some cases finding them temporary shelter. "But no matter how bad it's going to be, it will pass and our job will be to rebuild this community together, and that's what we're going to do".

North Carolina farms are moving livestock to safety.

"A lot of our storefronts are boarded up", said Lynn Davis, town manager for Belhaven which sits at sea level in northeastern North Carolina.

On its current track, Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest, the NHC said.

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