Beach Town's Main Drag Empty Ahead of Hurricane Florence

Patio furniture is seen in the pool in an effort to keep it from flying away as people prepare ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence on September 12, 2018 in Myrtle Beach.

The National Hurricane Center's best guess was that Florence would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then slog its rainy way westward with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses and farm fields.

Hurricane Florence is now expected to hit the Carolina coast with less powerful winds, a trade-off with increased rainfall - which may ultimately be more damaging for some areas.

The most severe winds are expected near the border of North Carolina and SC.

While Florence is no longer considered a major hurricane, its reach has expanded, threatening residents from Georgia to Virginia.

NHC Director Ken Graham said on Facebook the storm surges could push in as far as 2 miles (3 km).

Aside from wind-shear dangers, concerns are now shifting to flooding and storm surge issues.

Along with Florence, there are three other tropical systems, Isaac, Helene and Joyce churning in the Atlantic Ocean.

Forecasters said wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph), reducing it from a Category 4 storm to a Category 2, and additional fluctuations and weakening were likely as it swirled toward land.

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A National Weather Service forecaster has said it will be the "storm of a lifetime" for parts of the Carolina coast. Duke has said it could take several weeks to fully restore power in areas that are inaccessible due to flooding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that storm surge watches and warnings are in effect Wednesday for the entire North Carolina coast and parts of SC.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency "in light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall".

Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and the National Hurricane Center fears the storm "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and unsafe rainfall event Friday-Sunday".

"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety", Deal said. Florence could bring life-threatening storm surges, up to 13 feet.

Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast of the Carolinas, carrying days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC to Virginia.

"But I'm staying", she said. "Because it's Mother Nature". The flooding in southeast North Carolina and northeast SC might be "unprecedented", according to the agency.

On another barrier island just below the Bogue Banks, Steve Harrigan reported live from North Topsail Beach, where visitors and residents were largely heeding warnings from Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.) to evacuate. The four named storms in the Atlantic come as one in the Pacific is hitting Hawaii.

"This storm will bring in more rain that Hurricane Matthew did", said FOX8 Meteorologist Emily Byrd.

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