Hurricane Florence to 'bring Mike Tyson punch to Carolina coast'

Hurricane Florence is gaining strength as it moves west

It diminished from hurricane force as it came ashore, but forecasters said the 350-mile-wide storm's slow progress across North and SC could leave much of the region under water in the coming days.

More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

In Columbia, South Carolina, Barry Sparks, a 66-year-old retiree, was thinking of getting out after the path of the storm shifted somewhat to the south.

"Heed the warnings", said Byard, adding there was "well over $20 billion" in FEMA's disaster relief fund. "Don't bet your life on riding out a monster".

Georgia joined four other coastal states issuing an emergency declaration as forecasts showed Florence dumping historic amounts of torrential rain on the southern state.

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

The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 63 kph would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's centre reaching the coast Friday.

At 11 a.m., Hurricane Florence was located about 485 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 520 miles east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter warned of the storm's dangers and praised his administration's handling of past hurricanes, rejecting criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria a year ago in Puerto Rico. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the East Coast, is it time for a radical rethink on what it means to be prepared? "We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able".

And it led to mixed signals from officials in SC, whose governor had canceled mandatory evacuation for several coastal counties.

Coastal North Carolina may receive up to 40 inches (100 centimeters) of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said storm surge warnings have not changed despite the weakening intensity of the winds.

Henry McMaster lifted the mandatory evacuation order for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties Tuesday morning.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Some residents were resisting governors' calls to flee the region but remained fearful about the threats posed by the Florence.

Then, as the high-pressure system steering Florence weakens, the hurricane is expected to hang out inland for days, showering the region with rain much like Hurricane Harvey did to Houston previous year. "What is flooding going to do to our home, our city?"

Some 38cm (15in) to 64cm (25in) of rain is forecast in some areas - with up to one metre (40in) at the centre of the storm.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the hurricane center says.

"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.

Florence is the most unsafe of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.

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