'Threat becomes reality': Hurricane Florence begins days of rain, wind

Campaigns target Weather Channel as Florence bears down

At least 150,000 people were without power in North Carolina early Friday with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to utility companies.

This enhanced satellite image made available by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence off the eastern coast of the United States on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018 at 5:52 p.m. EDT.

Sea level rise also adds to storm surge damage: When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, a study found sea-level rise over the 20th century caused more than $2 billion in additional damage in New York City due to the "extra" storm surge it generated.

Florence has been bearing down on the Carolinas for days, and it has expanded in size, with tropical-storm-force winds extending almost 200 miles from the storm's eye.

As winds and rain picked up during the day and conditions quickly deteriorated, thousands of people moved into emergency shelters to ride out what officials have called "the storm of a lifetime".

"The idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more. once you leave, you don't know how many days it will be before you can return", a Wilmington resident named Kate tells VOA. "We are going to hunker down and stay safe and not stay in mobiles and we will be OK".

In its 0300 GMT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said the maximum sustained winds of Florence were 90 miles per hour, dropping it to the weakest of five categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale. "We just bought a new house so I'm kinda nervous".

Florence was downgraded overnight to a category one hurricane - with 90mph (145kmh) winds - but forecasters have warned that conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore in the early hours of Friday morning.

The center said that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation.

More news: As Florence Surges Forward, Rethinking What Hurricane Preparation Looks Like

Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 3.4 metres of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 900mm of rain, triggering severe flooding. Here's why this storm threatens not only the coast but millions of people inland.

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

In some counties, almost 1 in 3 people live below the poverty line. "Today the threat becomes a reality".

Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.

"I'm not anxious at all", said Richard Ford, 34, smoking a cigarette outside one of Wilmington's five shelters.

Utility companies are predicting power outages that could reach between one-to-three million across both North and SC for days and possibly weeks.

Mr Cooper's office said the current emergency declaration was helping state officials prepare for the storm.

It was downgraded Friday afternoon to a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph (110 kph) before its core slogged into coastal SC hours later.

A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet (9 meters) high as Florence churned toward shore. Life-threatening storm surge and rainfall are expected. Poor people are less likely to evacuate since they can't afford to travel and stay in other regions.

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