People flee as 'catastrophic' Hurricane Florence sweeps towards America

Hurricane Florence NOAA update

Hurricane Florence NOAA update Rainfall inundation expected and Florence at 2am local time

By late Thursday afternoon, the Carolina coasts can expect winds topping 80 miles per hour.

Keep in mind that the storm is just now coming ashore, and the winds and waves will get worse as the hours go on. When and where it will make landfall is unclear.

By the time it leaves, it's expected to have unloaded 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina, meteorologist Ryan Maue said. "Surge-related flooding can vary greatly over short distances", the advisory said.

The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".

Unlike Hurricane Hugo that hit in the evening and was gone by morning but Florence will be around a while. Close to 40,000 tons of toxic waste was dumped near the town of Eden, North Carolina.

"A slow westward to west-southwestward motion is expected Friday night and Saturday".

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The storm was a unsafe Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday. Storm surge is deadly. "Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated", said Fisher, 74.

The centre of Florence, no longer classified as a major hurricane but still posing a grave threat to life and property, was expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast today, then drift south-west before moving inland tomorrow, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC). The winds had been as high as 140 miles per hour earlier in the week. Again, the category may have been downgraded, but the storm surge could still rise up to 13 feet, which is enough to flood homes up to the first floor ceiling.

Richard Deakin, head of insurance sales for CoreLogic in New Zealand said: "Whilst our thoughts are obviously very firmly focused on those facing the danger and potential aftermath of Hurricane Florence, it's important to note that United States weather events could impact the premiums that New Zealanders pay on their home insurance".

Forecasters also say the storm surge - or wall of water - that the hurricane's winds and forward movement push on shore, could cause normally dry areas to be flooded by up to 4 meters of water moving inland.

Florence is lashing the state with "heavy rainbands with tropical-storm-force winds spreading across the Outer Banks and Coastal Southeastern North Carolina", the briefing said.

But the biggest danger could be life-threatening storm surges.

The storm clouds stretch along a thousand miles of US coastline with the center mass of the storm about twice the size of Pennsylvania. The Category 4 storm is likely to produce "catastrophic" flooding in the eastern Carolinas, as well as destructive winds.

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Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.

As the storm - with those winds - nears shallow water along the coast, its forces water inland.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Storm Helen looks set to reach the British isles next week, where it could bring strong winds and heavy rains.

The first large power outage in the Wilmington area also occurred Thursday morning, with the Duke outage map showing almost 1,400 customers in the Acme-Delco area of Columbus County and northwest Brunswick County without power.

Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency invoked a former boxing champion to warn residents that Florence would bring "a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast". The number is expected to rise, the flight-tracking service said.

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