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Hurricane Florence weakens, but still a strong flood threat

Hurricane Florence weakens, but still a strong flood threat

Oddly, the closer Hurricane Florence gets to land the murkier its future gets.

The White House tweeted: "Hurricane Florence poses a catastrophic threat to millions living in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia".

A life-threatening storm surge is now highly likely along portions of the coastlines of SC and North Carolina, and a storm surge warning is in effect for a portion of this area.

Forecasters say the storm poses such a threat because it is expected to slow down and hover for almost two days over the Carolina coast, before dipping south towards Georgia. The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge". According to the National Weather Service, the waves are produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction as the storm's motion.

Along with Florence, there are three other tropical systems, Isaac, Helene and Joyce churning in the Atlantic Ocean.

US East Coast residents are running out of time to flee before Hurricane Florence hits the region as soon as Thursday evening, officials warn.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said: "Florence is still forecast to be an extremely risky major hurricane when it nears the U.S. coast late Thursday and Friday".

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Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state.

"I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence", Deal said.

St. Helena Island near the South Carolina-Georgia line is used to riding out big storms - from one that killed an estimated 2,000 people in 1893 to Tropical Storm Irma previous year.

Though Florence has weakened slightly, it's still a very unsafe storm, and a life-threatening storm surge and rainfall are expected.

And there's "a huge difference" in the size and type of damage Florence inflicts if it stays 50 miles (80 kilometers) off shore versus heading inland immediately, Landsea said. "You can't stop Mother Nature".

"It's going to coming roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say 'I'm not sure I really want to do this and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground. The flooding in southeast North Carolina and northeast SC might be "unprecedented", according to the agency.

In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged people to remain away from home despite forecast changes showing Florence's path largely missing the state. The four named storms in the Atlantic come as one in the Pacific is hitting Hawaii.