Threat becomes reality as Hurricane Florence closes in

Hurricane Florence is a very dangerous storm FEMA weather briefing

Hurricane Florence is a very dangerous storm FEMA weather briefing

The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm but said life-threatening storm surges and catastrophic freshwater flooding were expected over portions of North and SC.

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.

Large and unsafe, Hurricane Florence is drawing closer to the coast of the Carolinas, where it threatens to become the most intense storm to strike the region in at least 25 years, since Hugo. "Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different".

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

The storm's first casualties included a mother and her baby, who died when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The News & Observer reports that the storm's path shifted early Wednesday and it is now bearing down on southern North Carolina and northern SC, where it could dump up to 40 inches of rain in places.

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As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. Parts of North Carolina could get 1m of rainfall.

The space agency released footage showing what Hurricane Florence looks like from space on Wednesday, as states along the coast brace for what experts are saying will be a devastating impact.

Coastal residents are not the only people attempting to move out of harm's way of Hurricane Florence.

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A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington amid concern over potential torrential rain and flooding.

After landfall, Florence slowed to a pace that would see the system likely lingering for days.

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In Columbia, South Carolina, Barry Sparks, a 66-year-old retiree, was thinking of getting out after the path of the storm shifted somewhat to the south.

"The time to prepare is nearly over", said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper at a Wednesday morning news conference.

The storm surge, or wind-driven seawater, poses a huge danger, FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned on ABC's "Good Morning America".

More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the storm because of both destructive winds and a storm surge that could place normally dry land under at least 10 feet of water.

Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon.

On Wednesday morning, Florence was extending hurricane-force winds outward up to 70 miles from its center, with tropical-storm-force winds up to 175 miles outward.

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President Trump chimed in Wednesday, warning residents of afflicted areas to "be ready, be prepared!"

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