Hurricane Florence looms over East Coast — WHAT’S HAPPENING

ISS images show massive Hurricane Florence from 400 km up

Time nearly up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at southeast US

A storm front is seen on the beach in North Topsail Beach, North Carolina, prior to Hurricane Florence moving toward the U.S. east coast.

A similar-strength hurricane, Maria, struck the island of Puerto Rico previous year, resulting in the deaths of almost 3,000 US citizens.

Most of those cancellations are tied to the approaching hurricane, now a Category 2 storm with winds expected onshore late Thursday at more than 80 miles per hour.

About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the U.S. National Weather Service said.

Hurricane Florence pushes its way towards the Carolinas coast.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but thats still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.

With prolonged hurricane force winds and up to 30 inches of rain, forecasters say the Hurricane Florence's aftermath will present major challenges to the Grand Strand area.

This doesn't mean that the storm isn't just as unsafe, as the bulk of the damage and possible loss of life will likely come from the 9-foot storm surge or up to 40 inches of rain that meteorologists are predicting. "Dont play games with it". One emergency official said it will be a "Mike Tyson punch" to the area.

At 11 p.m., the center of the Category 2 hurricane was about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Florence is still a very large hurricane.

North Carolina has roughly 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms containing more than 9 million hogs. Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1,100 trucks.

Experts have claimed that the rain and flood waters from Hurricane Florence, rather than its speed, are the real sources of danger. A further 10 million people are now under some form of storm watch.

But Jeremy Tominack said he stayed so he could keep an eye on his home and help his fellow Wilmington residents after the storm passes.

The timing of the official landfall could change with any shift in Florence's track over the next 12-18 hours.

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Computer models of exactly what the storm might do varied, adding to the uncertainty.

Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled about 1,200 flights and counting, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.

"There's no backing down on the magnitude of this storm in relation to where it's going to hit", Bastardi said.

Doug Lewis and Chris Williams use plywood to cover the windows of Knuckleheads bar as they try to protect the business ahead of the arrival of Florence.

Forecasters said conditions will continue to deteriorate as the storm makes its way slowly inland.

"It certainly is a challenge forecasting precise impacts when its exact track won't be known until a day in advance", Landsea said: There's "a huge difference" in the size and type of damage Florence inflicts if it stays 50 miles (80 kilometres) off shore versus heading inland immediately. Unsure of what they might find when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle.

"We lost power at home so we figured we should come to the bar", said Carla Mahaffee, a 33-year-old actor from Wilmington, as she drank a cider.

Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.

"Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated, " he said. Three other Southern raceways also opened campgrounds to evacuees.

Forecasters anxious the storms damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.

The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said people could still leave flood-prone areas.

Marge Brown, 65, says goodbye to her father, George Brown, 90, before he is evacuated from a healthcare home in Morehead City, N.C., September 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast. If the storm lingers longer, more rain will fall, according to forecasters.

"Its been really nice", Nicole Roland said. "Also, a little creepy".

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