Hurricane Florence's winds and rain begin lashing US Carolinas coast

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in the three states

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in the three states

It marks the beginning of a prolonged assault from wind and water, which - by the time it's over - is likely to bring devastating damage and flooding to millions of people in the Southeast. Storm surge, the rise in seawater above normally dry land at the coast, could rise a story high.

Florence could strengthen some over open water and then weaken as it nears land, but the difference won't make it any less risky, forecaster Stacy Stewart wrote in a National Hurricane Center discussion. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. "The storm surge forecast associated with this storm has not changed".

If the European model is true or the overall trend persists, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said it "is exceptionally bad news, as it smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".

Hurricane Florence, now a Category 2 storm, is slowly approaching the US coast, and the storm's massive fury is on full display in video footage taken from the International Space Station. Widespread rainfall amounts could reach 152mm to 300mm, spurring flooding.

"Very risky winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters".

The storm's center was about 108 miles (173 km) east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) but already some 19,000 homes and businesses were without power by mid-afternoon in the Carolinas and Virginia. The low-lying barrier islands hugging the Carolinas coast are experiencing some of the fastest rates of sea level rise in the world, almost an inch a year.

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The storm's winds may have weakened in recent days - they are now at 110mph (175km/h) - but there are fears Florence's slow-moving nature could bring different problems.

The Hurricane Florence has began to unleash fierce rains across the U.S. southeast. This includes Wilmington. A hurricane watch extends into the Charleston area.

A National Weather Service forecaster has said it will be the "storm of a lifetime" for parts of the Carolina coast.

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

Like a bulldozer, the storm's winds and forward motion will push a tremendous amount of water onshore when it makes landfall.

And while some people may think that Florence doesn't possess the same punch Harvey did since it's only a Category 2 storm, there is a comparison: Sandy.

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Forecast maps show Florence stalling out just off the coast of the Carolinas for at least 24 hours, starting Friday morning.

Dorf says trucking companies and logistics firms are working with FEMA and state and local authorities to park trucks full of goods and materials needed in the recovery in temporary warehouse and staging areas just out of the path of the hurricane, so they can quickly move into affected areas once the storm clears.

The impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.

It's unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. The track also shifted somewhat south and west, throwing Georgia into peril as Florence moves inland.

When flight operations can resume will depend on how long Florence sticks around, and forecasters predict it could sit and drench areas of the Carolinas with a deluge of rainwater over a couple of days.

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Similar declarations were made earlier in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. In a trailer park outside Wilmington, Alondra Espinoza was preparing to leave with her two young children.

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