Hurricane Florence: Storm force winds for North Carolina within hours

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Where is Hurricane Florence heading? Will it bounce south? Expect variance in forecasts, experts say.

Forecasters say wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph), reducing it to a Category 2 storm.

Masters said there's a tug-of-war between two clear skies high pressure systems - one off the coast and one over MI - and the more the Great Lakes one wins, the more southerly Florence will be.

In South Carolina, close to the Georgia line, Beaufort County emergency chief Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case.

The NHC measured wave heights of up to 83 feet - the equivalent of a seven-story building - as Florence churned in the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday.

North Carolina's Beach Plan is "in better shape financially than any other pool in the country", Causey said.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, he said: Disaster is at the doorstep and it's coming in. We are totally prepared.

"I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence", Deal said.

Elsewhere in Wilmington, Linda Smith, a 67-year-old retired nonprofit director, was concerned as she watched wind gusts stir up frothy white caps on the Cape Fear River.

"You've seen how changes can be", Cline said. "We've just never seen anything like this".

Duke Energy is anticipating downed trees and millions without power.

Roads and intersections on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands were already inundated with water.

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The storm has pretty much followed the forecast track through now, but the issue will be Thursday or Friday as it nears the coast and the steering currents collapse.

The storm's center was about 50 miles south of Morehead City at around 11 p.m. EST (0300 GMT Friday).

Myrtle Beach's Ocean Boulevard was practically empty at midday on Wednesday, September 12, as the SC town prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

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.

At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.

"The center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas today, and approach the coast of North Carolina or SC in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday", the NHC said.

The hurricane center is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast Saturday with winds of around 80 miles per hour before landfall, but with rainfall in the 20 to 30 inches range and up to 13 feet of storm surge. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachians, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. And if local officials recommend evacuation, evacuate immediately.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte. Instead, they drove 150 miles (240 km) inland to his mother's house in Durham.

SC authorities said law enforcement officers were guarding against looting in evacuated areas, while Wilmington set a curfew on Saturday evening in response to looting in one area.

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