Hurricane Florence downgraded to Category 2; still a risky storm

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Hurricane Florence, growing in size despite its weakening winds, churned ever closer to the US East Coast on Wednesday as evacuations expanded south from the Carolinas into Georgia to counter the threat of deadly high seas and calamitous floods. Instead, the storm is now expected to make landfall over Wilmington, traveling south over Myrtle Beach between Friday and Saturday, and then traveling through SC and North Carolina to the Tennessee border through Sunday into Monday.

As of 8 p.m., the storm was centered 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 16 mph (26 kph).

Tropical storm conditions are expected for areas of the Carolinas on Thursday with hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or greater) projected for "late Thursday or Friday".

NASA NASA / Reuters A view of Hurricane Florence is shown churning in the Atlantic Ocean in a west, north-westerly direction heading for the eastern coastline of the United States, taken by cameras outside the International Space Station, September 12, 2018.

Florence could bring life-threatening storm surges up to 13 feet.

If you are waiting to leave South Carolina's coast ahead of Hurricane Florence's expected landfall this weekend, the governor has a message for you: hurry up and get out.

"As we have been predicting, this hurricane is unpredictable", McMaster said at a news briefing updating the state's response to Florence on Wednesday.

Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.

At Nags Head on North Carolina's Hatteras Island, only a few people remained to take photos of angry waves topped with white froth.

Predictions are for Florence to be far more violent storm.

Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations.

"Heed the warnings", said Byard, adding there was "well over $20 billion" in FEMA's disaster relief fund.

"When Jim Cantore is in town, that means you got to get out of town", Fabian said. President Donald Trump said there was nothing to fear because his administration did such good work responding to last year's storms - including Hurricane Maria, which killed 3,000 people in Puerto Rico.

"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate", Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said.

"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast", it said early Wednesday.

"There's really not a lot of good news", NOAA flight director Paul Flaherty said on "Shepard Smith Reporting".