Hurricane Florence weakens to Category 1 storm

This image provided by NASA shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station on Wednesday Sept. 12 2018.
NASA via AP

The National Hurricane Center says "a life-threatening storm surge is now likely" along the North and SC coasts as Hurricane Florence approaches the USA eastern seaboard.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches (25 centimeters).

The NHC went on to say that a few tornadoes could form in eastern and southeastern North Carolina into Friday.

Florence is about 60 miles (95 km) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph), the Miami-based weather forecaster said. NBC News meteorologist Al Roker described Florence's potential storm surge as "the most risky part of the storm".

Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm overnight on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale but it is still packing hurricane-force winds of 100 miles (155 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. "Florence will then recurve across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week".

Hurricane Florence will be one of the biggest storms to make landfall along the United States eastern seaboard in decades.

But the storm still carried "very unsafe winds", the Center added. "This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina".

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference that the "historic" hurricane would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state in several feet of water, Reuters reports.

"There is going to be a lot of rain".

"The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come", he said. "Our meteorologists are saying that the rainfall amounts will be devastating in certain areas", he said.

The National Weather Service said as much as 18cm of rain had fallen overnight in some coastal areas. Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.

In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were told to flee.

About 800 flights in the region have been canceled ahead of the storm, CNN reported. Georgia, where governor Nathan Deal has now declared an emergency, is also thought to be in the firing line.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that protecting lives is his "absolute highest priority". Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles. "Catastrophic effects will be felt".

Two women who were riding out the storm dance to the music outside the Barbary Coast bar in downtown Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast, September 13, 2018.

Three other tropical systems, Isaac, Helene and Joyce, are churning in the Atlantic Ocean with the potential for another system to develop in the Gulf of Mexico into Friday.

"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", the update said.

Torrential rains brought about significant flooding in some areas, with the rains expected to continue over Oahu through Thursday.

Florence is now moving to the northwest at 17 km per hour.

Sprayberry delivered one of his final briefings before the storm hit on Thursday as Hurricane Florence began her dramatic descent.

The power outages started in earnest Thursday night.

Joyce, which is about 1,040 miles from the Azores, is moving south-southwest near 7 mph. The NHC is encouraging officials in northeastern Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to monitor its progress.

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