'It Wants to Get Stronger': NOAA Hurricane Hunter Flies into Florence

Gwen Vasquez
September 13, 2018

Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph) as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early Thursday, reducing the storm from Category 4 to Category 2, but forecasters warned that the enormous wind field has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land.

As of 8 a.m. ET, Florence was 530 miles southeast of Cape Fear, N.C., moving west-northwest at 17 mph, the National Hurricane Center says. Florence's hurricane-force winds were blowing 80 miles (130 kilometres) from its centre, and tropical-storm-force winds reached up to 195 miles (315 kilometres) from the eye.

On Thusday morning, shelters in the city already filled-up, with some people were being bussed inland to Raleigh, even though some residents there were told they might have to evacuate because of flooding.

"We are ready. We're as ready as anybody's ever been".

Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and the National Hurricane Center fears the storm "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and unsafe rainfall event Friday-Sunday". Florence will likely weaken to a Category 1 storm on Friday or Saturday.

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The White House has approved requests from North Carolina and SC for federal emergency declarations, allowing for greater coordination among states and federal agencies.

And now, the US Weather Prediction Center says 10million people on the east coast are expected to be placed under emergency advisories as the Cyclone barrels its way to the coast, with landfall expected today.

More news: Hurricane Florence: Astronaut photos of the giant storm from space

North Carolina resident Roberto Guzman carries belongings from his mobile home as he leaves Wilmington a day before the storm is due to strike.

Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.

"This is not going to be a glancing blow", Byard said, warning of power outages, road closures, infrastructure damage and potential loss of life.

Georgia joined four other coastal states issuing an emergency declaration as the latest forecasts showed Florence dumping historic amounts of torrential rain on the southern state.

The pivot in the forecasted track of Florence led Georgia's governor to declare a state of emergency for all 159 counties, home to 10.5 million people.

SC authorities have turned four motorways into one-way routes away from the coast to speed the exodus.

"This is a very unsafe hurricane", Mr McMaster said, adding that the evacuation order for coastal counties was "mandatory, not voluntary". "We're trying to get those last stragglers off of the barrier islands".

But what makes Florence so different from other storms this year? The storm is expected to make landfall early Friday morning near Wilmington, North Carolina.

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