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15 September 2018, 07:00 | Dale Webster
Hurricane Florence seen here early Thursday morning was downgraded from a Category 3 to a Category 2 storm
Florence, downgraded to a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale and moving west at only 5 miles per hour (8 kph), remained huge, unpredictable and potentially deadly ahead of its forecast landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, at mid-day on Friday.
The surge in power outages along the coast is the result of gusts coming off Hurricane Florence and knocking trees into power lines, said Lisa Crawley, a spokeswoman for the co-ops. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.
"Hurricane Florence was uninvited but she's just about here anyway", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference, warning people not to be complacent just because the storm's winds had diminished. "Today the threat becomes a reality", Cooper said.
As of 11 p.m. ET, Florence was centred about 135 kilometres east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to seven km/h. Forecasters say "it can not be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard posed by the slow-moving storm is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland".
Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 3.4 metres of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 900mm of rain, triggering severe flooding.
Weather forecasters have predicted that after hitting North Carolina region, Hurricane Florence may drift towards inland on September 15 (Saturday).
About 85,000 county residents are under mandatory evacuation orders, she said.
About 10 million people live in the storm's path and more than 1 million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
The storm's outer bands lashed towns on the barrier islands and on some of the Tar Heel State's rivers, as the center of the cyclone moved to make a probable Friday landfall.
Constable said she's prepared for the worst.
General O'Shaughnessy said there were about 7,000 U.S. military personnel now in place and ready to respond to the storm, along with ships, helicopters, high-wheeled vehicles and other equipment.
The storm was a unsafe Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday.
Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.
In Norfolk, Virginia, police were alerted to people dressed in fluorescent vests going door to door and telling residents that they had to leave their homes and businesses, The Associated Press reported Thursday. "Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", he said.
Will Epperson, 36-year-old golf course assistant superintendent, said he and his wife had planned to ride out the storm at their home in Hampstead, North Carolina, but changed their minds due to its ferocity. "He is the only caregiver to me and my son", Browning said.
The police chief of Wrightsville Beach suggested that those who chose to stay give him their next-of-kin contact information.
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