Hurricane Florence: Carolinas brace for 'storm of lifetime'

While the storm may have slowed down slightly, it will still bring life-threatening storm surges, high winds, massive flooding and power cuts as it makes landfall on the coast of North and SC.

The effects of Hurricane Florence have already arrived on the East Coast of the United States, where massive floods have already begun and as much asthe National Hurricane Center forecasts 40 inches of rain and 11 feet of flooding from the storm surge.

The effects of Hurricane Florence can already be felt along the coast of North Carolina as of 12 p.m. on September 13.

According to reports the cyclone has finally arrived on Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.

The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 90 miles per hour by nightfall. Most of the damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 in North Carolina came from inland flooding - 31 people died and almost 100,000 homes were destroyed.

"This storm will bring destruction", said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. Residents should expect to see higher tides than usual on the James and York rivers, as well as possible flooding and beach erosion.

More than 60 people were trapped in a collapsing hotel in North Carolina.

The storm's centre was about 180km east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 2pm local time (18:00 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands.

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After that, Florence is forecast to move northwest and north and move across western SC on Sunday, Sept. 15, and across western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee on Monday, Sept. 16, the NHC said.

More than 12,000 were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 people in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

Florence is forecast to significantly weaken as it crawls across central South Carolina Saturday.

Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.

The threat from Florence may spread to other states after the pummeling of the Carolinas. Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.

"(It's) very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Sandie Orsa, of Wilmington, who fears splintering trees will destroy her home.

Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour, the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night. "We just want prayers from everyone".

Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds. After criticism for its response in Puerto Rico to last year's Hurricane Maria, which officials there said was responsible for 3,000 deaths, Trump has vowed a vigorous response to Florence and defended his handling of Maria.

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