Florence expected to bring 'catastrophic' flooding to Carolinas

Hurricane Florence from above: Startling images of the huge storm from the International Space Station

The outer bands of Hurricane Florence are lashing parts of the US East Coast, the BBC reports.

The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Florence to a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour expected.

This image provided by NASA shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018.

The rain turned sideways Thursday, rivers swelled and floodwaters began to fill streets, as massive Hurricane Florence trudged toward North Carolina.

"This storm will bring destruction", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.

Areas along the SC coast, including Myrtle Beach, reported power outages Friday morning and early afternoon. We are on the bad side of this storm. "I am frightened about what's coming". "And I just don't think that there's a problem that we can't solve".

Most of the damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 in North Carolina came from inland flooding - 31 people died and almost 100,000 homes were destroyed. The Weather Channel estimated that up to three million customers might lose power in the Carolinas due to Florence.

Roads and intersections on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands were inundated.

The storm is now 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.

Meanwhile, lane reversals on USA 501 in the Grand Strand ended at noon Thursday and reversals on I-26 ended Thursday night, allowing state police and transportation workers to get to safety before the storm hits.

"Mandatory" evacuations in coastal Virginia and the Carolinas have been underway for days in advance of Hurricane Florence, but some residents have chosen to remain in their homes. Sixty-one shelters have opened in SC - 12 designated for evacuees with special medical needs - able to accommodate more than 31,000 additional people.

A very slow or meandering movement of Florence will translate to long-duration high winds, storm surge and demolishing wave action.

The NHC said in its 2 p.m. ET update that Florence is now a Category 2 storm, but it noted that the storm is quite large in diameter. A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia - as well as the U.S. capital Washington.

Despite pleas from state and local officials, some residents rejected calls to evacuate.

Near the beach in Wilmington, a Waffle House restaurant, part of a chain with a reputation for staying open during disasters, had no plans to close, even if power was lost, and there were lines to get in on Thursday evening.

"If you find yourself here [in rising floodwaters], you need to get out", she said.

Surges up to 4 m could inundate Cape Fear, North Carolina to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, with smaller surges ranging from half a meter to 3 m in coastal areas from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to coastal areas extending north into North Carolina. Instead, they drove 150 miles (240 km) inland to his mother's house in Durham.

"The anxiety level has dropped substantially", Epperson said.

But previous year, even with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, no one in the United States died of storm surge, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced.

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