Hurricane Florence from space

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It was located 575 miles (925 kms) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving at 17 mph (28 kph) in a west-northwest direction.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 3 storm Wednesday afternoon while still about 435 miles off the coast of Wilmington.

Forecasters have warned of life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic flooding, damaging winds, and risky rip currents along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore. He urged people to leave immediately rather than face the wrath of the "once in a lifetime" storm.

The storm is expected to arrive on the East Coast as early as Thursday, and is expected to ride north for several days.

By Saturday, total rainfall could accumulate to 20 inches (51 centimetres) - or even 30 inches in places - in parts of the Carolinas and Virginia, the NHC said. "It's sort of like having 33 weather stations out in the middle of the ocean", said flight director Richard Henning.

"They told me to bring a pillow and blanket", Whisler said.

Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to the North Carolina/Virginia border. "In this case, the coastline north of the center could experience storm surge during at least two 12-hour tidal cycles, rather than just one, and at least some surge could spread southwest with Florence", Henson wrote.

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"When it comes to surge and it comes to flooding, you can either build up higher or you build back from the water", Susan Millerick of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety said.

Analytics firm CoreLogic predicts that the damage from Florence could be more than $170 billion - making it the most expensive hurricane to hit the continental U.S.

Terrifying as the situation is (I am regularly checking on my folks, who abandoned Charleston for the highlands of North Carolina), there is a silver lining.

In neighboring Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said his state was readying for potentially "historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening flooding, and high winds".

Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation order for all coastal SC counties on Monday.

Florence will bring large rainfall totals through Saturday in North Carolina, north SC and Virginia, causing catastrophic flash flooding. "We're kind of at the mercy of the storm".

Since Tuesday, forecasts have shifted the storm track towards the south and southwest after it reaches the coast, which could increase the storm's severity in coastal SC through Myrtle Beach and Charleston and even into parts of Georgia.

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