Hurricane Florence weakens - but still unsafe

Amazon again puts disaster relief efforts in motion as Hurricane Florence set to punish Carolina coast

Night-time winds were down to 110mph from a high of 140mph, and the Category 3 storm fell to a Category 2, with a further slow weakening expected as the storm nears the coast. Despite the downgrade, Florence is expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely unsafe storm for rain and storm surge. Gen. Robert Livingston, adjutant general for SC, said in a statement.

"While Florence's maximum winds are expected to weaken a little, it is still expected to remain a unsafe major hurricane as it approaches the coast", they warned in a Wednesday mid-day update. 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".

Winds up to 80 miles per hour are lashing the coast, and a storm surge up to 11 feet high is expected in some areas, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Florence was one of two major storms on Friday. But it could have been worse: Labor Day marked the end of the peak tourism season in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and other coastal getaways. He says parts of Virginia will likely see tropical storm-force winds, flooding and several inches of rain.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged people to take the storm seriously. He says: "If Mama and Grandma are going, then a lot of people are leaving".

"Rail cars with vehicles destined for export from Charleston have been diverted to secure holding areas until the storm passes", BMW spokesman Kenn Sparks said.

Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. The rainfall will cause prolonged significant river flooding. Surges could reach 9' to 13' on the southeast North Carolina coast between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds and their rivers, and 6' to 9' on the adjacent stretches of coast. The rainfall will produce life-threatening flash flooding in Virginia and the Carolinas. For storm surge, people should evacuate, while for wind, they can stay in place in a strong structure as long as it's away from flood-prone areas, Knabb said.

About 800 flights in the region have been canceled ahead of the storm, CNN reported.

St. Helena Island near the South Carolina-Georgia line is used to riding out big storms - from one that killed an estimated 2,000 people in 1893 to Tropical Storm Irma previous year.

A state of emergency has been declared in 5 states including North and SC, as well as the capital, Washington D.C. Forecasters said Florence is expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, even as President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

The hurricane's immensity is why some 10 million people across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under storm watches and warnings, with meteorologists projecting Florence could become the most powerful storm to hit this part of the United States in at least 25 years.

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