Hurricane Florence from space: photos of the hurricane showed in the NASA

Hurricane Florence from space: photos of the hurricane showed in the NASA

Florence had maximum sustained winds of 215km/h and is on a trajectory that shows its centre most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina by late Thursday or early Friday local time, the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday.

Natural gas distribution companies and electric utilities ramped up their preparedness efforts as the path of Hurricane Florence, a Category 3 storm as of 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, took a notable shift and was set to approach the coast of North Carolina or the northern coast of SC beginning Thursday.

Coastal residents fleeing a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence encountered empty gasoline pumps and depleted store shelves as the monster storm neared the Carolina coast with 140 miles per hour (225 kph) winds and drenching rain that could last for days. Forecasters said Florence could become an extremely unsafe major hurricane sometime Monday and remain that way for days. "Now it might be time for the exam", he said. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

"Hurricane Florence is the strongest storm to target the Carolinas and this part of our country in decades".

The hurricane could also produce heavy and excessive rainfall - up to 40 inches in isolated areas in the Carolinas and anywhere between 6 to 12 inches elsewhere in the Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic region.

"This storm is going to be a direct hit", he added.

If some of the computer projections hold, "it's going to come roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say, 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground forecasting service.

Should other states request storm-related assistance from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, GEMA would in turn ask its Athens counterpart if the county could lend a hand by sending supplies or personnel to storm-ravaged areas. At 8 a.m. (1200 GMT) on Wednesday the storm was located about 530 miles (855 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Waffle Houses in Florence’s Path Have Begun to Close
But if they're served at Waffle House, those hash browns are a key signal of how badly a hurricane has affected a community. When a storm strikes, local officials will put out a call to the nearest Waffle House and find out what's on the menu.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling Florence a major and deadly storm.

"We hope to have something left when we get home", she said. "This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the NHC said.

Florence, the most ominous for United States residents, is expected to make landfall today.

Duke Energy serves around 4 million people in North and SC.

"Been through it!" Belli said, referring to Hurricane Hugo, which caused widespread damage in SC in 1989.

Here are some of the best images of Hurricane Florence by Gerst and Ricky Arnold, a fellow NASA astronaut who's also living on board the ISS.

And it led to mixed signals from officials in SC, whose governor had canceled mandatory evacuation for several coastal counties.

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