Watch a livestream of Hurricane Florence bearing down on North Carolina

Gwen Vasquez
September 15, 2018

The outer bands of Hurricane Florence reached North Carolina Thursday as officials continued to warn of the damaging nature of the monster Category 2 storm.

With winds picking up along the coastline early Thursday, federal and state officials had issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the "once in a lifetime" weather system. A tattered American flag seen flying on a live surf camera at Frying Pan Tower in North Carolina is evidence of the strong wind gusts pounding the coast.

He said hurricane-force winds extend outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extend almost 200 miles out.

Florence's center may linger for another whole day along coastal North and SC - punishing homes with crushing winds and floods and endangering those who've stayed behind.

But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster. "Please keep that in mind", and consider leaving soon, Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said midmorning Thursday. "Today the threat becomes a reality".

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 hurricane center is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast on Saturday with winds of around 130 kph before landfall, but with rainfall ranging from 50 to 75 centimeters and up to 4 meters of storm surge.

The NHC warned the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rains could trigger landslides in the western part of his state.

Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm smashes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and crawls slowly inland.

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Officials say anyone who has not heeded mandatory evacuation orders is on his own. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.

The NHC categorises hurricanes of category three and above as major storms.

"It's obviously a disappointment that we are not playing but at the end of the day, there are bigger decisions that need to be made for the safety fo a lot of people", Hunt added.

"We immediately gave up our hotel rooms so that more rooms are now available to those coming inland", Hunt said.

Despite days of warnings to evacuate, some residents are staying put - even if they don't want to.

Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo.

"I was feeling fine until I woke up this morning and this is a ghost town", said Kristin Beard, a 40-year-old Myrtle Beach marketer.

The White House said on Friday President Donald Trump would travel to the region next week unless his visit would disrupt cleanup and rescue efforts.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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