Hurricane Florence impacts college football games in Carolinas, Virginia

Surge wind rain floods Hurricane Florence could hit hard

"Should the storm continue on the current track and go in to either northern SC and southeastern North Carolina, it is forecasted to be a major hurricane - at least Category 3 strength or greater, which will result in catastrophic damage". Before it pummels the USA coastline, Florence could become close to a Category 5 storm - meaning winds could approach 157 miles per hour.

Forecasts generally have Wilmington, North Carolina, as the city most likely to bear the brunt of powerful Hurricane Florence as it makes landfall. That forecast could change, however, should the storm's track change. It remains an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday night. "Further strengthening is anticipated, and Florence is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday", the NHC warned.

Meanwhile, the Lesser Antilles are watching Tropical Storm Isaac, which was downgraded from a hurricane earlier Tuesday.

The winds will be strong enough to knock down trees, damage structures and cause widespread power outages, the center warned.

For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl, it could bring torrential rains all the way into the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other risky conditions in places that have already experienced lots of rain recently.

Heavy rainfall - up to 15 inches - for much of northern Virginia and nearly all of the state's eastern half. That could bring prolonged heavy rainfall. Recent projections have shown the Category 4 storm moving farther north.

"We want residents to prepare accordingly".

Both counties issued state-of-emergency declarations this morning, joining Currituck County and Chowan County and Edenton, which issued their declarations on Monday, and Elizabeth City, whose declaration took effect this morning.

Evacuations of coastal North Carolina began at noon Monday, with Dare County officials calling for the entire county to evacuate.

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Florence begins assault on North Carolina coastline
As of Thursday at 8 p.m., forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said wind speeds are 100 miles per hour (155 kph). Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.

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Nearby Jones County could see gusts in the 100 miles per hour range, while neighboring counties will be in the 60 to 95 miles per hour range, officials said.

The impending storm has spurred a number of new cancellations in Currituck. The Currituck Heritage Festival scheduled for Saturday has also been canceled. More than one million residents have been ordered to evacuate from coastal areas of the three states, closing university campuses, schools and factories. All student dorms will be closed at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

The menacing Category 4 storm packed winds of 130 miles (215 kilometers) per hour over the Atlantic.

The storm's first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as risky rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over the road.

Everyone "from SC into the Mid-Atlantic region should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials", the hurricane center urged ahead of Florence's expected landfall on Thursday or Friday.

The 8 a.m. forecast changes the storm surge watch for the eastern United States, with the worst impact, a surge of up to 12 feet, expected on a stretch from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout in North Carolina.

Governors of several states including North and SC have also waived certain trucking and transportation regulations to help prep for the storm - and be ready to take quick action once the worst it over.

Check back with Southeast Farm Press as we update our coverage of Florence with sources in the Carolina-Virginia region.

Florence is still a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to regain its top wind strength in the next day or so.

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