Florence weakens to Category 1 hurricane: NHC

Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm — but the danger’s far from over

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Set to hit the Carolinas around Friday afternoon, Florence was at one point classified as a Category 4 storm but has since been downgraded to Category 2, 6ABC reported.

In New Bern, North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000, located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers.

Early on Friday, the downtown area of the city of New Bern, on the Trent and Neuse rivers near the North Carolina coast, was underwater as emergency crews conducted several rescues, according to reports on social media.

The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico previous year.

"With the extreme storm surge along the coast, rivers will start to overflow".

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On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds (193 km).

Thousands have taken refuge in emergency shelters, officials said. "Gracious heavenly father God, just with those in the flood zone, may the damage not be so much", they prayed. We've got things boarded up. The director of athletics at the University of Tennessee has announced that displaced families are welcome to come to its game on Saturday against the University of Texas at El Paso, free of charge.

At 11:00 pm (0300 GMT), Florence was over the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and moving northwest at six miles per hour, the NHC said.

Florence is now a tropical storm sitting over the Carolina coasts and moving slowly inland and south, causing life-threatening storm surges and potentially "catastrophic freshwater flooding" according to the National Weather Service.

Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified as a Category 4 storm before being downgraded.

"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the NHC said. Isolated tornadoes may also be included in the wide-range of impacts the storm will have. The storm, they warned for the final time, was not to be played with. Further development of that system is no longer anticipated, the NHC said. Another guy agreed, writing, "we've already roasted Florence from a possible 5 to a 2, and made it move track from straight thru NC to SC, why not keep doing it and maybe it'll just die down completely".

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Total inundation is likely in portions of eastern and southeastern North Carolina and perhaps the upper part of the SC coast with a storm surge in excess of 10 feet in some areas.

SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina announced an evacuation of the Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination.

As the storm approached, Michael Cramer, the town manager of Carolina Beach, N.C., told NPR's Morning Edition that "easily a third of our community will be underwater" if the worst predictions are fulfilled.

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland declared states of emergency.

Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.

The tropical cyclone is expected to unload 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina, weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said. An investigation is underway, but officials said it appears there's no reason for others at the shelter to worry.

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