ISS images show massive Hurricane Florence from 400 km up

Heavy rain, wind gusts and rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence swamped the Carolinas as the massive storm crawled toward the coast, threatening millions of people in its path with record rainfall and punishing surf.

Because it has it all, including: Hot ocean temperatures that fuel hurricanes; favourable wind patterns; higher sea levels that exacerbate storm surge;cloud cover that could encompass multiple states; and an unusual combination of other weather systems that likely will stall Florence when it hits land, allowing it to sit for days and dump huge amounts of rain.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

The images, captured from249 miles above the storm, captured Florence as it draws close to North Carolina's coast.

Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified as a Category 4 storm.

The Weather Channel's forecast video shows the potential damage such surges could inflict on the southern states.

As of late Thursday, the hurricane center said Florence was 95 kilometers southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, with top sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour (90 mph).

Florence's hurricane force winds now extends 80 miles from the center, while the tropical storm force winds reaches almost 200 miles, according to the National Hurricane Center. But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said.

Holly Waters, 54, a retired special education teacher from Wilmington, said she was happy to have a place to go to relax before the storm worsened. "I've got four cats inside the house".

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He said all the calls for reservations were coming from either SC and North Carolina where the damage is supposed to be the worst. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Wednesday, adding that life-threatening storm surge and rainfall were still expected.

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Florence is forecasted to to meander southward through SC after landfall, then it will eventually get caught in the upper level flow and move out of the region.

North Carolina has had this problem before.

"But we can't replace us so we chose to come here".

The police chief of a barrier island in Florence's bulls'-eye said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave.

Officials said people refusing to evacuate could end up alone, drenched and in the dark, as rescue crews won't go out to help in winds above 50 miles per hour.

Many people in coastal communities have followed the mandatory evacuation orders, but some are vowing to stay put and ride it out.

Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Despite pleas from state and local officials, some residents rejected calls to evacuate.

"It doesn't matter how much money you have or how many generators you have if you can't get gas", she said.

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