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Hurricane Center: Florence close to landfall in N. Carolina

Hurricane Center: Florence close to landfall in N. Carolina

Now, many more people and houses are set to endure hurricane-force winds, which extend 80 miles out from Florence's center. Pieces of buildings ripped apart by the storm flew through the air.

The Charleston area will see winds near tropical storm strength of 40 miles per hour and somewhere between 3 to 6 inches of rain.

Hurricane Florence's eye was slightly more than 100 miles from Wilmington, according to a 2 p.m. briefing by the National Hurricane Center.

Winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence moved in for an extended stay, with enough of its killer winds swirling overseas to maintain its power.

To put the rain in perspective, Wilmington's three-day rainfall record was 19.66 inches set in 2010, said Jordan Baker, a meteorologist with the NWS Wilmington office.

And in Wilmington, North Carolina, a steady rain began to fall as gusts of winds intensified, causing trees to sway and stoplights to flicker.

Hurricane Florence was more recently downgraded to a Category 2 storm. "Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other unsafe conditions", the hurricane center briefing said.

She also said residents don't need to live next to a river or creek to experience catastrophic flooding in their basements.

WXII-TV reported that 150 people were waiting to be rescued from rising waters in the city New Bern.

Hurricane Florence's sustained wind speeds have lessened slightly to 105 miles per hour, but the storm is already bringing surges and tropical storm winds to the North Carolina shore, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 a.m. briefing.

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Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The outer bands of the cyclone drenched the Carolinas on Thursday, flooding roads and knocking out power in an ominous glimpse of the damage it could inflict when it makes landfall on Friday. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned people: "Today the threat becomes a reality".

More than a million people along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate.

In all, an estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

Already Thursday, streets were transformed into raging streams and massive waves surged along the Outer Banks.

Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The storm has pretty much followed the forecast track through now, but the issue will be Thursday or Friday as it nears the coast and the steering currents collapse.

A simulation weather video is showing what the life-threatening Hurricane Florence storm surge might look like if it reaches a frightening nine feet (2.7m).

Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.