Hurricane Florence seen maintaining strength as it approaches coast: NHC

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Florence dumped more than 20 inches on Oriental, N.C., the NHC said.

"We know where the water's going now so we can kind of better prepare those buildings and exhibits", she said.

"We're talking about days, potentially weeks", Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said Wednesday night on CNN Tonight.

On Thursday afternoon, the storm's outer rain bands began lashing down on the coast.

Florence's eye could come ashore early Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Tropical storm-level winds and rain are already beginning to hit the Carolinas.And despite slower winds the devastating effects of predicted massive rainfall have not changed, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC), which warned of "catastrophic flash flooding" from up to 40 inches of rain.

"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference.

Florence could threaten the largest rainfall event in USA history, Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 whirlwind that settled over Texas and dropped more than 60 inches of rain, turning roadways into rivers, destroying homes and buildings and killing almost 90 people.

In honor of all this hard work, here are several more memes people sent us about the hurricane.

Florence is about 644 kilometres wide and it's winds have dropped from a peak of 225 km/h to 165 km/h, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a Category 2.

She said she hasn't heard from shelters in the south who might need help.

That's about 220 miles from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. September 14, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

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"Even a small prediction error could have major impacts", he said.

In the 5 a.m. ET advisory, Florence was 205 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, NC, packing maximum-sustained winds of 110 mph and moving to the northwest at 15 mph.

The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.

Authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.

"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house.

Despite a mandatory evacuation ordered Tuesday, emergency officials in New Bern reported that about 150 people were waiting to be rescued, and two Federal Emergency Management Agency teams were in the area, the News & Observer of Raleigh, NC, reported.

"The water kept rising and kept rising", he said.

Thousands of people hunkered down in schools, shelters and a coliseum in Winston-Salem.

About 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did, officials said.

Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines cancelled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.

The impact of Florence will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, risky surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.