Wind approaches outer banks of North Carolina

The view of Florence from space as she bears down on the east coast of the USA

The police chief of a barrier island in Florence's bulls'-eye said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave.

Forecasters expect Florence to hit the Carolinas early in the morning on September 14. Its forward movement was 6 miles per hour (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles. Then Florence may hover over the region for days, with cloud cover as wide as the Carolinas.

The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before dawn in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.

President Donald Trump has said protecting lives is his "absolute highest priority" and that the White House is standing by to offer affected states whatever help they ask for.

Hurricane Florence crashed into the Carolinas as a giant, slow-moving storm on Friday, threatening catastrophic flooding while leaving scores in need of rescue from rising waters and hundreds of thousands without power.

About midday on Thursday (local time), Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.

By late Thursday afternoon, Florence's fierce headwinds were already uprooting trees and tearing down power lines and had ripped the roof off of at least one building in coastal North Carolina, according to news station WGHP.

A simulation of Florence for Saturday as the storm tracks over SC.

"The vast majority of the time the horses know what to do, and they are able to get to higher ground or protect themselves", said Gillikin.

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More than a million people along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate. An additional 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia - as well as the U.S. capital Washington.

Flooding risks are also causing worries over the more than 300 wild horses living on North Carolina's coasts. "Remember that floods will occur in places that do not receive a hurricane or even tropical storm level winds".

Already Thursday, streets were transformed into raging streams and massive waves surged along the Outer Banks.

Airlines have cancelled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns across the Carolinas are largely empty after 1.7 million people in three states were told to clear out.

Even though the one-time Category 4 tempest has been downgraded to a Category 2, it's still packing lethal 100-mph winds and the potential for 13-foot storm surges and 40 inches of rain, officials warned.

Although the storm is approaching the US coastline as a Category 2 hurricane after weakening from a Category 4 storm, that doesn't mean the storm will be gentle.

There are fears that this storm could cause damage similar to what Houston suffered during Hurricane Harvey past year, when homes and businesses were inundated with floodwater.

"Just because the wind speed came down, the intensity of this storm came down. please do not let your guard down", said Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), earlier on Thursday.

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