'Monster' Hurricane Florence Barrels Toward the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the U.S. East Coast on Sept. 12

Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm but it is still considered an extremely risky and life-threatening storm.

The storm's eye is expected to be over Columbia by 8 a.m. Sunday as the Florence's winds die down to tropical storm force (39 to 73 mph).

Florence is expected to make landfall late Thursday or early Friday (Sept. 13 or 14), likely as a Category 3 hurricane, meaning it will have winds blowing at a minimum of 111 miles per hour (178 km/h), Samson said. Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and river flooding is likely.

In addition to the hurricane-strength winds blowing ashore Friday, Florence has the potential to bring a storm surge upwards of 6 feet in parts of the coastline including up to 13 feet from Cape Fear north to Cape Lookout.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses could be flooded in North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper warned. After Florence's rain starts to fall this week, he said, the rainfall could continue through Monday.

For anyone needing a place to stay to escape the hurricane, both North Carolina and SC are updating their lists of emergency shelters.

He says the time to flee Hurricane Florence is now.

Analytics firm CoreLogic predicts that the damage from Florence could be more than $170 billion - making it the most expensive hurricane to hit the continental U.S.

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The storm, which fell from category four to category three on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, is expected to strengthen despite it weakening on Wednesday.

News that the storm could plow through SC after landfall came shortly after McMaster lifted his mandatory-evacuation order for Beaufort County and many other areas south of Charleston.

"Forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern SC and North Carolina's Outer Banks as a strong Category 3 on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs".

If anyone left out there doubts Florence's sheer capacity to wreak havoc in the coming days, this NOAA satellite image (from former NASA scientist and Professor Marshall Shepherd) should do the convincing.

Deal cited the storm's "forecasted southward track" in a statement declaring a state of emergency.

To back up that point, Graham cited a sobering statistic: "50 percent of the fatalities in these tropical systems is the storm surge - and that's not just along the coast".

President Trump said the federal government and first responders stand ready to assist, but even so, "bad things can happen when you're talking about a storm this size".

"This is not going to be a tropical storm ... this is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast", Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for FEMA's Office of Response and Recovery, said on Wednesday.

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