Time almost up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at Southeast

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Parts of the Carolinas could see 50 cm to 76 cm, with isolated areas getting 101 cm, over seven days along the coast.

From Thursday night through Sunday morning, CNN reported that Florence would travel only 150 miles, or slower than the average walking pace of 2-3 mph.

Spokesman Howard Fowler said restoration could take "weeks instead of days", even though 20,000 workers, including crews from outside the area, were standing by.

On Thursday afternoon, the storm's outer rain bands began lashing down on the coast.

Florence's circulation was pushing water ashore, especially north of its eye, in coastal or riverside towns like New Bern and Belhaven, turning land to lakes.

Hurricane Florence lumbered ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, ripping apart buildings and knocking out power to a half-million homes and businesses as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Florence could threaten the largest rainfall event in US history, Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 whirlwind that settled over Texas and dropped more than 60 inches of rain, turning roadways into rivers, destroying homes and buildings and killing almost 90 people.

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm approached, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

Florence had been downgraded to a Category One hurricane before landfall, and is forecast to significantly weaken as it moves across central South Carolina Saturday.

"You can't get over till we have power and we have sewer up and running", said the retired teacher and real estate agent, who rode out the hurricane in an inland hotel.

Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., at 7:15 a.m. ET, creeping slowly ashore - but bringing strong winds, a massive storm surge and a rain system that will soak much of the state and SC for days.

"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.

Officials say more than 100 people have already been rescued in the area overnight.

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia. Deadly storm surges, flooding and inland rainfall are expected to cause significant damage as well.

Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines cancelled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.

While Zone A is a mandatory evacuation zone, a city spokesperson said they would never force anyone to leave. "I'm not sure if it's a shift in the wind or low tide - but the water has miraculously disappeared".

Jen Kottyan, the avian collection and conservation manager for the zoo, said the ways the zoo is preparing are very similar to how people might brace for a storm at home: filling tubs with water for drinking and cleaning, making sure facilities are equipped with flashlights and batteries, and clearing drains to guard against flooding.

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