Hurricane Florence has weakened but it will still be devastating

Hurricane Florence’s likely path

Hurricane Florence’s likely path

"We're kind of at the mercy of the storm".

Forecasters say it could slow dramatically when it nears land and then linger until Saturday, moving unpredictably along the coast and bringing torrential rain.

What also makes Florence extremely risky are the deadly storm surges, mammoth coastal flooding and historic rainfall expected far inland.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm's strength should continue through Thursday. "So will the power lines, as the trees fall down".

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency "in light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall".

Florence is forecast to move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern SC in the hurricane warning area Thursday night and Friday. Widespread rainfall amounts could reach 152mm to 300mm, spurring flooding. "Once these winds start blowing at that tropical storm rate, it will be virtually impossible for the rescuers to get in to rescue you".

At a press conference Thursday morning, officials stressed that Hurricane Florence's wind speed may have fallen, but the danger has not.

As of the National Hurricane Centre (NHC)'s latest update, the extremely unsafe weather system was located about 105 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 165 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Meteorologist Greg Diamond has noted that areas along the coast of North Carolina on the right side of the storm could experience a significant storm surge through multiple high tide cycles, which would have a cumulative battering effect. The storm was a risky Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

The National Weather Service said 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches.

"You put your life at risk by staying", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

All of this has led to fears that the state could face an environmental disaster if industrial waste - including hog manure and coal ash - is washed into people's homes. Sustained winds slowed slightly to 125 miles per hour Tuesday afternoon, making it a Cat 3 storm.

The Union Point Park Complex is seen flooded as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018.

"Employees and local contractors have inspected equipment, reviewed procedures and assembled staffing plans to ensure around-the-clock support to respond to any potential impacts", the company said in a statement.

Rain projections also increased, with some locations along the North Carolina coast now expected to get up to 40 inches. The more it hovers just off shore, the more potentially deadly storm surge it could push on-shore.

As of Tuesday, about 1.7 million people in North and SC and Virginia were under warnings to evacuate the coast, and hurricane watches and warnings extended across an area with about 5.4 million residents. As the storm moves inland, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland will also be in peril.

And then there's the major slowdown that's expected: as of Thursday, Florence was moving roughly 17 km/h, but once it makes landfall, it's expected to nearly stall, with its forward speed dropping to just 9 km/h or less.

The scale includes five categories and is based on the storm's sustained wind speeds. They also instituted a 24-hour curfew.

"Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse".

He warned residents to be prepared for mass power outages that could last for days or weeks, echoing the sentiments shared by Duke Energy on Wednesday. "If it's my time to go, I'll go".