The storm was located about 950 miles (1,530 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 5 a.m. ET (0900 GMT), according to the NHC, which warned it would be "an extremely unsafe major hurricane" through Thursday night.
Nasa said the storm, now brewing above the Atlantic Ocean, had weakened to Category 1 strength, but is expected to strengthen into a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall on the United States mainland.
Tropical expert Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground lays out a potentially catastrophic storm surge scenario for Florence and the Carolinas pointing out the devastating nature of the storm surges produced by two of the three CAT 4 strength hurricanes which have hit the coastline north of Georgia at high tide since 1851: Hurricane Hazel on October 15, 1954 and Hurricane Hugo on September 22, 1989.
Many coastal residents in North and SC have already evacuated.
According to USA Today, the National Hurricane Centre has said Florence is set to hit the US East Coast later this week, possibly as early as Wednesday. Isaac became a tropical storm again approaching the Caribbean, while Hurricane Helene was veering northward, no threat to land.
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For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other unsafe conditions. More than 1 million people are evacuating amid forecasts for a 12-foot (3.7-metre) storm surge, and expectations of as much as US$27 billion in damages. But that part of the East Coast rarely sees any major hurricanes.
The worst damage will occur to the north of where the hurricane makes landfall. Hurricane Harvey, they said, is a recent example of what could happen. It might not leave, which means we're going to have some flooding.
Chris Brace, from Charleston, S.C. lowers hurricane shutters on a client's house in preparation for Hurricane Florence at Sullivan's Island, S.C.,.
The center of the massive storm is then forecast to meander Thursday, Friday and Saturday over a stretch of coastline saturated by rising seas, inundating several states and triggering life-threatening floods. The biggest risks from Hurricane Florence may not come from wind, but from the associated rainfall.
"Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of SC and is going to go way inshore".
North Carolina's football home opener versus UCF is canceled, the athletic department announced Tuesday.