Hurricane Florence Tracker: Warnings Sent Out for North, South Carolina

'This is a big storm': Results could be catastrophic

The alerts also mean risky storm surges are likely along the coast and heavy, sustained rains could cause life-threatening flooding inland, the National Hurricane Center warned.

Eastern, Hurricane Florence was approximately 410 miles south of Bermuda and 975 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Florence's winds in the afternoon were down slightly to 125 miles per hour (205 kph), from a high of 140 miles per hour, and the Category 4 storm fell to a Category 3.

The Carolinas and Virginia will be smashed with the life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and inundating rain.

The National Hurricane Center expects Florence's rainfall totals to be around 40 to 60 centimeters, with some areas receiving as much as 90 centimeters of rain.

Even with some weakening that's predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a risky major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said.

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

Even with a slightly revised southward track, Hurricane Florence still poses a significant threat to central North Carolina and Alamance County.

Another resident staying put despite evacuation orders to over 1 million people throughout the Carolinas and Virginia is Jon Wright, a retired firefighter.

"The Charleston area now is expected to see at least 1-2 inches of rain over the next several days".

The longer the storm stalls near the coast, the more precipitation it will be able to pull from the Atlantic and dump inland.

Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.

He warned residents to take precautions "because once this storm is upon us, we're not going to be able to send emergency personnel out to rescue you".

These alerts are usually issued about 48 hours before storms are set to touch down, when the arrival of tropical force winds would make any last-minute preparation hard.

Florence is now churning through the Atlantic, only a few hundred miles off the coast of Wilmington, N.C. Sharp added that some areas could see flooding where he hasn't flooded before.

To hasten evacuations from coastal SC, officials reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so all major roads led away from shore.

Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20in of rain, if not more, with as much as 10in elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington DC.

"We hope to have something left when we get home", she said.

SC authorities have turned four motorways into one-way routes away from the coast to speed the exodus. The location was determined based on the track of Hurricane Florence and lodging availability, along with lessons learned from recent past difficulties returning home to an area impacted by widespread flooding.

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