Putting the enormity of Hurricane Florence into perspective

Ocean waters rushes down Hwy 12 in Frisco N.C. on Hatteras Island as the effects of Hurricane Florence breach the dune line on Thursday Sept. 13 2

On Thursday evening, Florence's forward movement was just 5mph. The hurricane is expected to make landfall on Friday, with heavy rain and hurricane-force winds potentially lasting for days.

The Miami-based center says Florence is bringing "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas.

People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways early Wednesday as Florence bore down on the coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes. Cooper said he hopes more shelters will also open today.

Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing. The city said two FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more were on the way.

The storm's center was about 145 miles (235 km) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as of Thursday night.

"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.

Hurricane Florence, a Category 1 hurricane, makes landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

In the coastal town of New Bern, authorities were working to rescue at least 150 residents left stranded by flood waters, including 17 in one street. The eye of that hurricane merely grazed the coast.

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Images captured by Associated Press journalists show last-minute preparations to secure homes and businesses and families settling into storm shelters as rain and storm surge began to soak the Carolinas. Gerst pleaded with people living in the area to heed evacuation orders, warning them there is a "nightmare coming for you".

It's about the water, not the wind, with Hurricane Florence making an extended stay along the North Carolina coast.

As of 4 a.m., Florence was 30 miles (45 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

The NHC warned that storm surge could still reach up to three metres high between North Carolina's Cape Fear and Cape Lookout, though it could be higher in the Bay, Neuse, Pamlico and Pungo Rivers, it said. On the forecast track, the centre of the storm is expected to move inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern South Carolina Friday and Saturday. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of Wilmington.

Qlik analyzed branch data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and compared it with the National Weather Service's storm-path forecast and the probabilities that certain areas would see tropical storm-force winds.

Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), warned the danger was not only along the coast: "Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", he said.

The downgraded status of the storm, which indicates that Hurricane Florence is moving at maximum sustained wind speeds of 110 miles per hour, means little in terms of its impact and deadly potential, according to Elliot Abrams, chief forecaster at Accuweather. Gov. Roy Cooper warned, describing day after day of disastrous weather to come.

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