Carolina coast battening down, boarding up as hurricane nears

RAMMB satellite image taken at 6:00 ET on Sept. 12 2018 shows Hurricane Florence off the US east coast in the Atlantic Ocean

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Florence had racked up winds of 130mph and is on a trajectory which suggests its centre is most likely to hit the south coast of North Carolina by Friday.

As of 200am, the eye of the storm was 375 km southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 17 miles per hour.

But the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening that the storm is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to the Carolinas as it approaches the coast Thursday and Friday.

State and federal officials have frequently urged residents in the target zone to evacuate but there was resistance along the coast.

The storm's first casualties included a mother and her baby, who died when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The last hurricane rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people.

More than 60 people, including many children, were evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse. In North Carolina, Cooper says, "2,800 soldiers will be on active duty, joined by even more on standby".

"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence", Deal said Wednesday morning.

Then, it will probably hover along the coast on Saturday, pushing up to 13ft of storm surge and dumping 20 to 30 inches of rain on both states, before heading over the Appalachian Mountains.

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It was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina.

Meanwhile, some of North Carolina's 2,100 industrial-size hog farmers are scrambling to drain waste pools containing manure before the hurricane hits, according to NPR.

Then, as the high-pressure system steering Florence weakens, the hurricane is expected to hang out inland for days, showering the region with rain much like Hurricane Harvey did to Houston past year. Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland.

Florence is now heading for ocean water that has surface temperatures of about 85 degrees, meaning it will most likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.

"Rather than a very narrow and intense band of winds, the winds are slightly weaker - but [they] cover a much larger area", NHC senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart said on Wednesday.

Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over warm ocean waters and move toward land.

Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon.

Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm. The storm's forecast has shifted southward in the last 24 hours.

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