Threat becomes reality as Hurricane Florence closes in

AccuWeather Explains What to Expect from 'Monster' Hurricane Florence

The outer rain bands of Hurricane Florence were beginning to be felt in North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center, as the Category 2 storm, with sustained winds of 110 miles per hour and the likelihood of "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall", ranged closer to a landfall.

Enough rain could fall to break North Carolina's record for a tropical storm - 24 inches - set near Wilmington during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations at the Weather Service's national prediction center. "Heed those warnings and evacuate if you're in one of the zones".

"Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different".

Florence is forecast to dump up to one metre of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and SC.

As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

The hurricane could also produce heavy and excessive rainfall - up to 40 inches in isolated areas in the Carolinas and anywhere between 6 to 12 inches elsewhere in the Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic region.

An Oklahoma search and rescue helicopter team left Wednesday for Hurricane Florence and will be stationed in Tennessee and the Carolinas along the East Coast to respond as needed, the Oklahoma City Fire Department reported.

He says the time to flee Hurricane Florence is now.

Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave. Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland.

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The storm, which fell from category four to category three on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, is expected to strengthen despite it weakening on Wednesday.

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

In Columbia, South Carolina, Barry Sparks, a 66-year-old retiree, was thinking of getting out after the path of the storm shifted somewhat to the south.

"Rather than a very narrow and intense band of winds, the winds are slightly weaker - but [they] cover a much larger area", NHC senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart said on Wednesday.

"Be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas", Mr Deal said in a statement.

Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm.

But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and the likelihood of it lingering around the coast for days - would bring seawater surging on to land and torrential downpours.

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. "We have two boats and all our worldly possessions", said Susan Patchkofsky, who refused her family's pleas to evacuate and stayed at Emerald Isle with her husband.

"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham said.

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