Storm now a Category 2, still risky

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Hurricane Florence crashed into the Carolinas on Friday, knocking down trees and swamping streets with torrential rains and a powerful storm surge, before slowing to a pace that meant it would plague the area with days of flooding.

Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

"Don't play games with it", he added. At 8 a.m. on Wednesday the storm was located about 855 km southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Thursday and Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore.

"We can only hope it won't hit hard", White said. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm.

Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for week.

"In 12 or 18 hours, they may be saying different things all over again", he said.

"Stocks tend to fall in front of a storm because of uncertainty", said Sandler O'Neill analyst Paul Newsome. It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

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

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He cautioned residents to closely monitor Hurricane Florence. This storm is going to be a direct hit. Florence's path remains uncertain.

The shift in the projected track had areas that once thought they were out of range anxious.

"The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation and it's going to get worse", he said at a news conference in Raleigh.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said. In Pender County, North Carolina, one woman died after she suffered a heart attack and paramedics were unable to reach her due to blocked roads authorities said.

Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.

Liberty Mutual Insurance and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company write the most commercial property insurance coverage in North and SC, according to a report on Wednesday by Moody's, citing data from SNL Financial.

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. Most other beachgoers were long done.

"I'm scared we'll get 30 inches or more of rain", said Carol Trojniar, 69, a longtime Wilmington resident and retired real estate agent who has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane. "Also, a little creepy".

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