'Don't play games with it': Florence takes aim at Carolinas

'Don't play games with it': Florence takes aim at Carolinas

Fuctuations in strength are expected through Thursday, and the hurricane is still expected to be "an extremely unsafe major hurricane when it nears" the USA coast late Thursday and Friday, the hurricane center told CNN.

As of 11 p.m. EST, the storm was centered 280 miles east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was moving northwest at 17 mph.

The National Weather Service is forecasting heavy rainfall Sunday through Tuesday across central SC with flooding potential in the Upstate, northeast Georgia and the mountains of western North Carolina.

Authorities, including President Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are urging residents in the Carolinas as well as parts of Virginia and Georgia to evacuate as the storm continues its path.

The threat has sparked a rush of evacuation efforts in SC and North Carolina, with more than 1 million people urged to get out of Florence's way.

We'll keep you updated on this system in the coming days.

On the forecast track, 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 and move slowly near the coastline through Saturday.

Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.

Florence's winds in the afternoon were down slightly to 125 miles per hour (205 kph), from a high of 140 miles per hour, and the Category 4 storm fell to a Category 3.

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NOAA Hurricane Hunters have been flying constantly from Lakeland Linder International Airport, right into Hurricane Florence.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper told locals not to "bet your life on riding out a monster", with ferocious winds set to batter the shoreline.

"The time to prepare is nearly over", Cooper warned.

President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, which frees up the way for federal aid. With that much size and strength, even a glancing blow could be devastating - something forecasters stressed as they noted the shift in the predicted track. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175miles.

Most of the area will likely endure winds near or just below Tropical Storm force Friday.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the hurricane center says. "It goes well inland".

Moreover, high tides around noon and midnight these next few days will make the storm surges even worse, Samson said.

"This is not going to be a tropical storm ... this is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast", Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for FEMA's Office of Response and Recovery, said on Wednesday. "It's called Mother Nature".

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