Hurricane Florence seen maintaining strength as it approaches coast: NHC

Hurricane Florence impacting flights along East Coast

Of course, stately as Florence's eye may look in these pictures, NOAA video reminds us that it's a churning place of tremendous latent power.

Florence's winds had dropped from a peak of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 105 miles per hour (165 kph) by midmorning, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2.

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

What also makes Florence extremely risky are the deadly storm surges, mammoth coastal flooding and historic rainfall expected far inland.

An intense wave, as well as heavy rains, will announce on Thursday on the coast of Las Carolinas, the arrival of Florence.

The outer bands of Hurricane Florence drenched the Carolinas on Thursday, flooding roads, gorging rivers and knocking out power in an ominous glimpse of the damage the storm could inflict when it makes landfall on Friday with millions of people in its path. A tropical storm warning covers the area from north of Duck to the Virgina Tidewater area.

The storm will slow down because of pushback from a trough - an extended area of low atmospheric pressure - now over Texas, Stacy Stewart, an NHC senior hurricane specialist, said in the update.

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Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.

Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches (one meter) of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina Thursday night or Friday.

"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said. And if local officials recommend evacuation, evacuate immediately.

To put the rain in perspective, Wilmington's three-day rainfall record was 19.66 inches set in 2010, said Jordan Baker, a meteorologist with the NWS Wilmington office. "This is a life-and-death situation".

The path of Hurricane Florence could affect the homes of more than 5 million people, and more than 1 million of them have been ordered to evacuate.

The massive storm is larger than North Carolina and South Carolina - combined, according to South Carolina Emergency Management.

"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said.

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News that the storm could plow through SC after landfall came shortly after McMaster lifted his mandatory-evacuation order for Beaufort County and many other areas south of Charleston. "We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge".

The mayor of Carolina Beach, North Carolina, said authorities have stopped allowing traffic to the island via the only bridge between the island and the mainland. On Wednesday, officials said some of those shelters were at capacity, but in a statement early Thursday, county officials said they were "able to mobilize additional resources to accommodate the need for shelter space".

"I'm not going to lie: I'm scared", she said. "You feel like you should have already left".

While Hurricane Florence continues barreling toward the Carolina coast, the Caribbean got some good news Wednesday: Isaac appears to be weakening.

CNN reports dire word from FEMA associate administrator Jeff Byard, who warns that this storm is not to be reckoned with.

One grocery store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, sported a plea for divine intervention - with forecasters warning that the threat of devastation remains high despite the downgrade.

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