The outer bands of wind and rain from a weakened but still lethal Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday as the monster storm moved in for a prolonged and potentially catastrophic stay along the Southeast coast that could drench the homes of as many as 10 million people.
The National Hurricane Centre said it was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 miles per hour or higher.
That's because the weather systems that usually push and pull a storm are disappearing as Florence nears land around the border between North and SC.
In the Historic Triangle, a coastal flood warning is in effect for James City County, Williamsburg and York County through 6 a.m. Sunday.
Faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes. The hurricane center said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore. NASA/Handout via REUTERS " Pray for Wilmington" is seen on boarded up windows ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 12, 2018.
Storm surge warnings were issued from South Santee River in SC to Duck, North Carolina. Practically, however, that won't matter when it comes to storm surge and inland rainfall.
Helene is now in the Atlantic Ocean following behind Hurricane Florence, which was expected to hit the eastern coast of the USA late Thursday or early Friday.
A hurricane's numerical classification tends to dominate the headlines, but it tells only part of the story - it rates a storm's wind speeds - and not necessarily the most life-threatening part. North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said crops such as tobacco and corn are in midharvest while sweet potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and cotton are still in the field. Hurricane Helene and Subtropical Storm Joyce were off in the Atlantic, posing no threat.
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Isaac, along with Florence, Helene and two other systems increasingly likely to form, have set a hectic pace for the Atlantic - even busier than previous year when Harvey, Isaac and Maria made landfall within three weeks of each other.
"We are completely ready for hurricane Florence, as the storm gets even larger and more powerful".
Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte. North and SC already faced flooding earlier this summer.
While it is extremely likely that the eastern Carolinas will be hardest hit by the storm Thursday into Friday (local time), the storm's direction becomes far less certain over the weekend and next week.
"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Storm surge is why many of you have been placed under evacuation and we are asking citizens to please heed a warning.
Duke Energy estimated earlier this week that up to 3 million of its 4 million customers in North Carolina could lose power.
"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm, " National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic basin, Tropical Storm Isaac will strike the islands of the Lesser Antilles, with Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique under a tropical storm warning.