'Monster' Hurricane Florence to pummel US Southeast for days

The storm strengthened from 130 mph to 140 mph and is Category 4 the NHC said

Florence is forecast to crawl up to the North Carolina coast late this week and turn slowly left - a development that would smash the Tar Heel State with life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and inundating rain while also endangering a large portion of SC.

Forecasts hypothesize that Florence's center will arrive at the South and North Carolina border on Friday as either a Category 3 or 4 hurricane.

Florence's winds in the afternoon were down to 120 miles per hour from a high of 140 miles per hour, and the Category 4 storm fell to a Category 3, with a further slow weakening expected as the storm nears the coast. Its winds could approach Category 5 strength, which means winds of 157 miles per hour (253 kph) or higher.

"Florence is going to approach land, and then nearly stop and become stationary and sit over the North and SC coast for a couple days", said Galarneau. "You're going to be displaced from your home in coastal areas".

Hurricane Florence will be "the storm of a lifetime", according to the National Weather Service.

Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 300 miles ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swathe from SC to OH and Pennsylvania could get deluged.

Communities could lose electricity for weeks, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said.

Across the Piedmont, Charlotte could see around 5 to 10 inches of rain.

Florence could have devastating impacts in Virginia, including storm surges, inland flooding, downed trees and power outages, Gov. Ralph Northam said.

The hurricane will weaken as it moves across land.

"If you don't have a plan in place, you still have time to do something", Jones said.

"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said. "It's one of those situations where you're going to get heavy rain, catastrophic, life-threatening storm surge, and also the winds". Over 1.5 million people are under evacuation orders.

First comes the storm surge - a rise in sea levels caused by storm winds.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.

North and SC and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week.

If Florence stays on it's current path, the now - category 2 storm will make landfall along the Carolina coastline Friday morning, meteorologists said. Cars and trucks full of people and belongings streamed inland.

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