Rain, wind and rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence swamped the Carolinas early today as the massive storm crawled toward the coast, threatening millions of people with record rainfall. "We can not underestimate this storm".
If the European model is true or the overall trend persists, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said it "is exceptionally bad news, as it smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Centre warned that Florence remained deadly because of its size and slow forward speed, even if its top sustained winds have dropped it to Category 2 status as a hurricane. The winds had been as high as 140 miles per hour earlier in the week.
"Some say North Carolina is getting a break, but we are on the wrong side of this story", he said.
Still, a storm surge can overwhelm the animals, as it did in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel killed five horses and swept three others a few miles away.
More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.
Don't relax, don't get complacent. In the tiny community of Sea Breeze near Wilmington, Roslyn Fleming, 56, made a video of the inlet where her granddaughter was baptized because "I just don't think a lot of this is going to be here" later. "I am frightened about what's coming".
"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said.
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They are heeding the warnings to get out of the Carolinas before the storm hits. The main highway in the Outer Banks was closed in parts as seawater pushed in.
He said there are about 7,000 United States military forces now in place and ready to respond to the storm - along with ships, helicopters and high-wheeled vehicles.
Because most are managed as wild animals, numerous horses will be left to fend for themselves, said Paula Gillikin of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve.
At least 150,000 people were without power in North Carolina early Friday with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to utility companies.
One of the main threats across the southeast is flooding.
The storm will be a test of President Donald Trump's administration less than two months before elections to determine control of Congress.
People are seen inside a shelter run by Red Cross before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Grantsboro, N.C., September 13, 2018.
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths".
Hurricane Florence could dump more rain on the state than Hugo because it's expected to stop over SC for several days, and could move across the SC coastline. Millions were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks.