Watch a livestream of Hurricane Florence bearing down on North Carolina

Watch a livestream of Hurricane Florence bearing down on North Carolina

The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's center reaching the coast Friday.

Florence could bring wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as four metres and NHC Director Ken Graham said on Facebook they could push in as far as three kilometres.

The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago.

Cooper said 108 shelters are open across the state, with more than 7,000 people already staying at them, as of Thursday afternoon.

Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing.

Even miles away from the Atlantic, North Carolina residents in low-lying areas are boarding up and emptying stores.

After that, Florence is forecast to move northwest and north and move across western SC on Sunday, Sept. 15, and across western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee on Monday, Sept. 16, the NHC said.

About 10 million people live in the path of the slow-moving storm and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles. Municipal power agencies, including New Bern and Southport, have not reported any outages yet.

If you are waiting to leave South Carolina's coast ahead of Hurricane Florence's expected landfall this weekend, the governor has a message for you: hurry up and get out.

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The National Weather Service forecasts minor to major flooding along rivers anywhere from the Carolinas to Maryland in the coming days.

At least 150,000 people were without power in North Carolina early Friday with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to utility companies.

Tropical storm conditions are expected for areas of the Carolinas on Thursday with hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or greater) projected for "late Thursday or Friday".

Hurricane Florence continues to snarl travel in the Southeast as it closes in on the Carolinas, affecting more than a dozen transportation hubs there and in other parts of the region.

Hurricane Florence is now barreling toward the East Coast and is forecast to bring, "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall... across portions of the Carolinas", according to NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

The storm was a risky Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday.

"Some say North Carolina is getting a break, but we are on the wrong side of this story", he said.

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.

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