Florence weakens to Category 2 hurricane but still life-threatening: NHC

Just an absolute embarrassment

The impact of Florence will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, unsafe surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.

The forecast calls for as much as 40 inches (102 centimeters) of rain over seven days along the coast, with the deluge continuing even as the center of the storm pushes its way over the Appalachian Mountains.

In South Carolina, traffic along parts of Interstate 26 and USA 501 has been directed away from the coast. Combined, North and SC boast an economy bigger than Saudi Arabia's.

People in areas vulnerable to the risky hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm.

For many of those under evacuation orders, getting out of harm's way has proved difficult, as airlines canceled flights and motorists had a hard time finding gas.

Hurricane Florence roared toward the Southeast as officials warned the more than 1 million people in its path to get out of the way or face its wrath.

As of 8 a.m. EDT it was centered about 170 miles (275 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 220 miles (355 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 12 mph (20 kph).

Even if Hurricane Florence's category weakens, or if the storm no longer maintains its hurricane status, the amount of rain can still be biblical.

A unique-and potentially deadly-combination of weather patterns and coastal geography is adding to the uncertainty about where exactly the storm will make landfall, how its intensity might change once it arrives and where it will go inland.

With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.

The storm will be a test of President Donald Trump's administration less than two months before elections to determine control of Congress. We'll have more on Hurricane Florence after headlines. Tropical storm force winds extend up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the center. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina.

The threat of storm surges loom for areas in the path of the storm, meaning life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland is possible in the next 36 hours. They also expect higher storm surges due to the rise in sea level, which will increase chances for flooding. Storm surge of 13 feet on top of a high tide at 7 feet could overwhelm Carolina Beach. It is expected that the hurricane moves on or near the coastline during the night of Thursday through Friday.

Florence is now heading for ocean water that has surface temperatures of about 85 degrees, meaning it will most likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast. Tropical Storm Olivia made a double landfall in Hawaii Wednesday morning, first in west Maui then Lanai, KHNL reports.

Around 5.25million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches and 4.9 million in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said. A third high-pressure system over the central USA pushed the cyclone south and could contribute to its stalling, which could result in a situation similar to what happened in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey hovered over Houston and devastated it with massive rains and flooding.

"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd and Matthew", it said.

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