AAA: Florence likely to cause increase in East Coast gas prices

Regardless of its intensity at landfall, Florence is a risky hurricane that will cause life-threatening conditions for portions of the Southeast U.S. Residents of the Carolinas should closely follow the National Hurricane Center and local authorities.

Hurricane Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast on Thursday, as the hulking storm closed in with 105 miles per hour winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend.

The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 90 miles per hour by nightfall.

"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion", the agency says.

Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 300 miles ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swath from SC to OH and Pennsylvania could get deluged.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in the state.

"Forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern SC and North Carolina's Outer Banks as a strong Category 3 on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs".

Then, it will probably hover along the coast on Saturday, pushing up to 13ft of storm surge and dumping 20 to 30 inches of rain on both states, before heading over the Appalachian Mountains.

On Wednesday, forecasters projected Florence - now a category 4 hurricane - will likely slow down and turn south after slamming the East Coast. Rather than pushing up toward western Virginia, the storm's center is now predicted to move across the middle of SC. The storm will make landfall at the Carolinas Friday. In Myrtle Beach, S.C., and nearby areas, the surge could hit 6-9 feet.

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More news: Hurricane Florence makes landfall in Carolinas, threatens catastrophic flood

As of 8am local time, it was centred about 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 220 miles east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving north west at 12mph.

The storm will pick up additional strength as it passes over ocean water with sea surface temperatures of up to 85 degrees, the National Hurricane Center said.

A high-definition video camera outside the space station captured stark and sobering views of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm.

Satellite images show the storm has maintained a distinct eye and is well organized. Current forecasts call for Florence to be at least a Category 3 storm when it arrives at the Carolinas.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the hurricane center says. Tropical Storm Olivia is expected to move over Hawaii Wednesday or Thursday, KHNL reported.

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

Hurricane Florence has inundated United States coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say conditions will only worsen as the hulking storm slogs inland.

A year ago, people would have laughed off such a forecast, but the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches for Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, so "you start to wonder what these models know that we don't", said University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy.

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