Hurricane Florence looms over East Coast — WHAT’S HAPPENING

Hurricane Florence is expected to cause devastation when it makes landfall later today or early tomorrow, with "life-threatening storm surge" and intense rainfall.

A man runs past a mandatory evacuation sign before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's prediction, all of coastal North Carolina is at "high" risk of flash flooding, with "moderate" risk, even 30-50 miles inland.

Although slow weakening is expected to begin by late Thursday, Florence is still forecast to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane when it nears the USA coast late Thursday and Friday.

A view of Hurricane Florence is shown churning in the Atlantic Ocean in a west, north-westerly direction heading for the eastern coastline of the United States, taken by cameras outside the International Space Station on Wednesday.

Downpours and flooding would be especially severe, lasting for days, if the storm stalls over land.

Florence weakened slightly to a Category 3 storm on a five-step scale but had maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour (201 km per hour) as of 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), down from 130 mph earlier in the day. And the more it hovers just off shore - a distinct possibility - the more potentially deadly storm surge it pushes on-shore.

Faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes.

"This is not going to be a glancing blow", said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

While hurricane forecast cones are usually right, National Hurricane Center meteorologist Joel Cline says there is just no way to pinpoint the exact location of landfall with any certainty.

Florence is headed straight for some of the most well-known military bases in the country.

Benson has lived in North Carolina for more than a decade and now is headed away from the hurricane's destructive path.

"The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you've ever seen", he warned residents.

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.

"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said.

The likelihood of South Carolina's coast being without electricity for a prolonged amount of time, though, made the couple decide to flee. "You feel like you should have already left".

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