'Historic storm' lashes Carolinas with heavy rain, floods

Surges up to 4 meters could inundate Cape Fear, North Carolina to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, with smaller surges ranging from half a meter to 3 meters in coastal areas from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to coastal areas extending north into North Carolina.

"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves".

Masters said there's a tug-of-war between two clear-skies high-pressure systems - one off the coast and one over MI.

Florence is becoming more of a threat to more people - now including some in Georgia - in more ways.

"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the briefing said.

The storm's center was about 145 miles (235 km) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as of Thursday night. And even though meteorologists sort storms into categories by the strength of their winds, it's actually the storm surge that's most unsafe, as AccuWeather reported.

The storm has pretty much followed the forecast track through now, but the issue will be Thursday or Friday as it nears the coast and the steering currents collapse.

Hurricane Florence is not expected to make landfall until Friday morning but residents in coastal areas are already losing power as gusts lash the eastern edge of North Carolina.

Heavy bands of rain and tropical storm force winds are sweeping across the barrier islands off North Carolina and along the southeastern coast of the state.

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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.

Gerst photographed the storm 400 kilometers, or 248 miles, above the eye.

More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warning for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions. The GFS model has 20 or so inches of rain falling over the next couple of days and you can see how that rain accumulates over time.

NASA also recorded what it called "stark and sobering" video footage of Florence from the space station on Wednesday.

Penn said the primary focus at the start will be on critical "life and death" infrastructure along the coastline, including 911 service, hospitals, police and fire departments and water treatment facilities.

The storm is also predicted to bring historic rainfall of up to 35 inches to the Wilmington region.

The first large power outage in the Wilmington area also occurred Thursday morning, with the Duke outage map showing almost 1,400 customers in the Acme-Delco area of Columbus County and northwest Brunswick County without power. "We're about to be in the thick of it".

Florence's winds had dropped from a peak of 140 miles per hour to 105 miles per hour by Thursday, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2.

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