Federal officials halt immigration arrests during Hurricane Florence

Florence weakens to Category 2 hurricane but still life-threatening: NHC | New Hampshire

The outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday as the monster storm moved in for an extended stay along the Southeastern coast, promising to drench the properties of 10 million people with enormous amounts of water.

An estimated 10 million people live in the storm's path, according to the US Weather Prediction Center, and coastal businesses and homes were boarded up in anticipation.

Florence's maximum sustained winds were clocked on Thursday at 165 kph after it was downgraded to a Category 2 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the NHC.

"We had pretty high floodwaters up until the early morning hours", Risty-Davis tells NPR's Morning Edition.

"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference. "Today the threat becomes a reality".

Don't relax, don't get complacent.

Tom Ballance said his wife went to Atlanta and he stayed behind in their New Bern home with their three dogs and a cat.

Sixteen kilometres away in the city of Wilmington, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River. "I have never seen a hurricane that is literally going to be with us for two days", he said. "I am frightened about what's coming".

"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.

Screaming winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge whipped the Carolina coast to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

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Video reports from several towns in the Carolinas showed emergency personnel wading through thigh-high water in residential neighbourhoods.

Some 11,000 power outages have been reported in North Carolina.

Air Force General Terrence J O'Shaughnessy, head of US Command, said search and rescue is a top priority but that the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of rescuers.

Life-threatening storm surge and rainfall are expected. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachians, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Florence was seen as a major test for FEMA, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared previous year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, which was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths. Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey.

A few of the high-resolution images show the towering walls of the eye of the storm where things are ever so much calmer than they are near the wall of the eye.

"I think I could survive a long time".

Trump provided no evidence to support his challenge on Maria.

A tree fell on a homeowner's auto, parked in the driveway as Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina.

He warned residents to be prepared for mass power outages that could last for days or weeks, echoing the sentiments shared by Duke Energy on Wednesday.

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