'Catastrophic' Hurricane Florence buffets USA east coast

Body surfer Andrew Vanotteren of Savannah Ga. crashes into waves from Hurricane Florence Wednesday Sept. 12 2018 on the south beach of Tybee Island Ga. Vanotteren and his friend Bailey Gaddis said the waves have gotten bigger and better every eve

Hurricane Florence remains on track to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to coastal North and SC, the National Weather Service says.

US Southeast power companies said more than 188,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina and SC were without power early Friday as Hurricane Florence caused a deluge ahead of its landfall later in the day. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

About 10 million people live in the path of the slow-moving storm and more than one million have been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

Hurricane Florence was more recently downgraded to a Category 2 storm. The winds had been as high as 140 miles per hour earlier in the week.

Hurricane-force winds began whipping North Carolina as federal emergency management officials warned that the hurricane remained a "very unsafe storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the coast.

He spent the last few hours of calm before the storm visiting those who stayed, collecting contact information for their next-of-kin. "Today, the threat becomes a reality".

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"Don't relax, don't get complacent".

Sixteen kilometres away in the city of Wilmington, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.

But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast for days - will bring life-threatening storm surge and torrential rains. "I just figured come here and be safe".

Baker said the rain will bring damaging flash flooding to all areas of the Wilmington region, not just low-lying areas that are particularly vulnerable.

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Following Hurricane Florence are two more powerful storms crossing the Atlantic, namely Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene. Wild horses in the Rachel Carson Reserve in Beaufort, North Carolina will fend for themselves during Hurricane Florence.

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The outer bands of wind and rain caused by the storm were already lashing North Carolina on Thursday morning.

Near the beach in Wilmington a Waffle House restaurant, part of a chain with a reputation for staying open during disasters, had no plans to close, even if power is lost.

And about 46 miles farther up the waterfront, in New Bern, about 150 people were waiting to be rescued from floods on the Neuse River, WXII-TV reported.

The police chief of Wrightsville Beach, vulnerable on a North Carolina barrier island, agreed that those who refused to leave were now on their own.

The NHC says tornadoes within hurricanes are usually "relatively weak and short-lived, but they still pose a significant threat".

What also makes Florence extremely unsafe are the deadly storm surges, mammoth coastal flooding and historic rainfall expected far inland.

Trump faced severe criticism for his administration's response to Hurricane Maria previous year in Puerto Rico. "Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other risky conditions", the hurricane center briefing said.

Charlotte-based Duke had posted roughly 96,000 outages in Carteret, Craven, Pamlico, Onslow and New Hanover counties, while the co-ops listed more than 74,700 outages in the same general area.

Trump provided no evidence to support his challenge on Maria.

The Carolinas will bear the brunt of the storm, but as it moves inland, Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland will also be hit.

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