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14 September 2018, 10:59 | Elsie Buchanan
In addition to the life-threatening storm surge, Florence is also forecast to dump up to 40 inches (1m) of rain after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina Thursday night or Friday.
Little change in strength is expected before the eye of Florence reaches the Carolina coast, with slow weakening expected after the center moves inland or meanders near the coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Although the storm is approaching the US coastline as a Category 2 hurricane after weakening from a Category 4 storm, that doesn't mean the storm will be gentle.
Heavy bands of rain and tropical storm force winds are sweeping across the barrier islands off North Carolina and along the southeastern coast of the state.
Even if Florence were downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, it would still cause extensive damage, Abrams says.
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Many people in coastal communities have followed the mandatory evacuation orders, but some are vowing to stay put and ride it out. Those winds can heard howling at the Frying Pan, a decommissioned lighthouse 55km off the North Carolina coast.
Reports out of Wilmington, North Carolina, said that the outer bands of wind and rain from Florence, a Category 2 storm with 105 miles per hour winds, are hitting North Carolina.
"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", said Linda Smith, 67, a retired nonprofit director.
It is now heading northwest at approximately six miles per hour. "Remember that floods will occur in places that do not receive a hurricane or even tropical storm level winds. All across the state of North Carolina and portions of SC, there will be extreme flooding or major flooding at least for a number of days to come".
"It's all going to be predicated on where the damage is at, in terms of how and where we deploy our resources", said Penn. Forecasters are predicting as much as 40in of rain in some localized areas.
"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the NHC said.
At the time of writing, over 116,000 people were watching the storm approach the tower, which "is a privately owned surplus Coast Guard Light Station", that also doubles as a "unique adventure bed & breakfast" when the weather is more appropriate.
Myrtle Beach, a SC beach resort, was virtually deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.
Not everybody was heeding orders to evacuate, however.
On Thursday, schools and businesses were closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled about 1,200 flights and counting, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty.
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Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo. "And the vast majority of the time they are OK", she said. "I'm not leaving him here". "I learned from the past to keep the ice in the washing machine". "I charged the batteries of my electronic devices, I have beers and video games".
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Many people in coastal communities have followed the mandatory evacuation orders, but some are vowing to stay put and ride it out. National Guard soldiers from the state, North Carolina and Virginia are mobilizing to prepare for hurricane recovery efforts.
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