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Hurricane Florence weakens slightly as it moves toward US coast: NHC

Hurricane Florence weakens slightly as it moves toward US coast: NHC

"Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you", Gerst said.

Tropical storm conditions are expected for areas of the Carolinas on Thursday with hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or greater) projected for "late Thursday or Friday".

The center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Wednesday night, and approach the coast of North Carolina or SC in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday, NHC said.

As Florence closed in for the worst strike on the area in decades, President Donald Trump and state and local officials urged residents in the path of the storm to evacuate before it is too late.

However, late Tuesday the track of Hurricane Florence shifted south, creating uncertainty over how much impact the Lowcountry counties will see from the storm.

Florence's nighttime winds were down to 115 miles per hour (185 kph) from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), and the Category 4 storm fell to a Category 3, with a further slow weakening expected as the storm nears the coast. President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

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

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People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia while schools and factories were being shuttered.

"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "There's nobody left to work".

"What can you do?" she asked.

"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said.

Many coastal towns have already instituted mandatory evacuation orders. But said if you are in an area that normally floods during heavy rains, "You should go ahead and leave".