Astronaut takes photo showing power of Hurricane Florence from space

Hurricane Florence

Fuctuations in strength are expected through Thursday, and the hurricane is still expected to be "an extremely risky major hurricane when it nears" the US coast late Thursday and Friday, the hurricane center told CNN.

As the hurricane became larger and better organized Tuesday afternoon, mandatory evacuations were ordered for parts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the storm because of both destructive winds and a storm surge that could place normally dry land under at least 10 feet of water.

Experts predict that the storm could bring rainfall up to 40 inches and up to 13 feet of floodwater in some areas. In a recent ranking, Millerick's institute found South Carolina's rules to be among the most up to date among hurricane-prone states.

"In collaboration with state emergency agencies and the Georgia Hospital Association, we are monitoring bed counts daily so that we can quickly and accurately assist with any necessary evacuations", said Sydney Walker, spokesperson for Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.

The storm looked likely to make landfall on the coast of North and SC but heavy rain was also expected in Virginia to the north and Georgia to the south.

Washington Post: "Category 4 Hurricane Florence drawing closer to Carolinas and threatens "catastrophic" flooding" - "Expanding in size, violent Hurricane Florence is continuing on a beeline toward the East Coast as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane".

The hurricane is about 470 miles (755km) east-southeast of Myrtle beach, SC with maximum sustained winds of 125mph (205km/h).

The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut down to allow for a smooth flow of traffic inland. President Trump has declared an emergency in the three states and says the government is "as ready as anybody has ever been".

"If I need to evacuate I can go to my son's house", Sparks said as he carted a load of water bottles to his vehicle. But North Carolina's code lagged the rest of the country by one or two cycles and didn't meet even the 2009 standards for anchoring windows and doors.

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However some residents have chose to board up their homes and ride out the storm.

"I do worry though about people here because many didn't prepare, you know, because originally they didn't think it was going to be so bad here", Sparks said.

"I rode out Hugo", Miller said of a 1989 hurricane that caused widespread damage.

"Usually the north and east side [of the storm] is where we see the highest rainfall amounts and the greatest tornado threat. It's sort of like having 33 weather stations out in the middle of the ocean", said flight director Richard Henning.

Enough rain could fall to break North Carolina's record for a tropical storm - 24 inches - set near Wilmington during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations at the Weather Service's national prediction center.

"Disaster is at the doorstep and is coming in", Cooper said. "If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely".

And it led to mixed signals from officials in SC, whose governor had canceled mandatory evacuation for several coastal counties.

The predicted amount of rainfall that Florence will bring to the southeast.

Florence's intensity has diminished since it roared ashore along the USA mid-Atlantic coast on Friday as a hurricane.

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