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Florence punishes Carolinas with torrential rain, flooding; six dead

Florence punishes Carolinas with torrential rain, flooding; six dead

"But despite that, bad things can happen when you are talking about a storm this size", he added.

Florence's nighttime winds were down to 110 miles per hour (175 kph) from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), and the Category 3 storm fell to a Category 2, with a further slow weakening expected as the storm nears the coast.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation order for all coastal SC counties on Monday. Elsewhere in the Appalachian and Mid-Atlantic states, three to six inches of rain are expected, with up to 12 inches in isolated areas, according to the NHC.

The US east coast is bracing for more than 40 inches of rain as Hurricane Florence barrels nearer to land.

In addition to the hurricane-strength winds blowing ashore Friday, Florence has the potential to bring a storm surge upwards of 6 feet in parts of the coastline including up to 13 feet from Cape Fear north to Cape Lookout.

Federal Emergency Management Agency associate administrator Jeff Byard said: "This is not going to be a glancing blow. Don't bet your life on riding out a monster", he said.

Florence weakened slightly to a Category 3 storm on a five-step scale but had maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour (201 km per hour) as of 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), down from 130 mph earlier in the day. The Category 4 storm is likely to produce "catastrophic" flooding in the eastern Carolinas, as well as destructive winds.

A storm surge warning is in effect for South Santee River, South Carolina to Duck, North Carolina, Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.

Masters said there's a tug-of-war between two clear skies high pressure systems - one off the coast and one over MI - and the more the Great Lakes one wins, the more southerly Florence will be.

The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut down to allow traffic to flow inland, but the exodus was slow along roads jammed with outward-bound vehicles. Duke Energy serves around 4 million people in North and SC.

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"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.

"They told me to bring a pillow and blanket", Whisler said.

"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.

However some residents have made a decision to board up their homes and ride out the storm.

"Been through it!" Belli said, referring to Hurricane Hugo, which caused widespread damage in SC in 1989.

"Usually the north and east side [of the storm] is where we see the highest rainfall amounts and the greatest tornado threat". Around 20,000 crew members, plus thousands of linemen from as far away as Texas will assist Duke Energy to get the lights back on for folks impacted following the storm, Fowler said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned that staying put would be a grave mistake and said people in evacuation zones "need to get out now". "Disaster is at the doorstep and it's coming in".

"We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able, we've got the finest people I think anywhere in the world".

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while neighboring North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination, and parts of coastal Dare County. The National Weather Center said Florence will likely be "the storm of a lifetime" for portions of the Carolina coast.


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