Florence about to make landfall in N. Carolina causing life-threatening storm surge.
As of Thursday morning, forecast models showed the storm bringing more rain than originally thought - officials now predict 35 inches of rain will fall in a two-day period as Florence, now a Category 2 storm with 110 miles per hour sustained winds, will stall over Wilmington after making landfall early Friday morning.
On Thursday, schools and businesses were closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled about 1,200 flights and counting, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty.
Some people who had rejected calls to evacuate the targeted area took walks along the water as they tried to enjoy a few final hours of normalcy before Florence's fury arrived.
At a press conference Thursday morning, officials stressed that Hurricane Florence's wind speed may have fallen, but the danger has not. The power company has warned that up to 3 million people could be left without power for an extended period of time following Hurricane Florence.More news: Alan Wake is Being Adapted into a TV Series
Storm surges are caused when huge volumes of water are pushed by hurricane-force winds.
Its centre was moving west at only 9km/h.
One resident, 67-year-old Linda Smith, told the MailOnline: "We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now".
Even if you didn't know that the powerful storm is forecast to gain strength as it hits the coast on Friday, or that it will dump several months of rain onto the region in a mere few days, or that the storm surge could reach as high as 9 to 13 ft.
Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure. "If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing".
"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face".More news: Apple Introduces $749 6.1-inch iPhone Xr
Steering currents - around clear-weather high-pressure systems and stormy low-pressure systems - redirect hurricanes, with the clear-weather systems acting as walls that storms have to go around.
The storm surge risk will be highest between Southport, NC, and Surf City, NC.
"Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma's eye". Florence is now at the weakest of five categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Forecasters said some of Florence's outer bands could bring heavy rain and perhaps isolated flooding to Maryland, and they warned that significant coastal flooding was possible along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay as winds push waters on shore.
Winds 154-177km/h Roofs and trees could be damaged. Anyone in an evacuation zone in the Carolinas and Virginia must leave NOW if they haven't yet.More news: Apple's cheaper iPhone XR rocks bright colours
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