Florence's 'violent grind' leaves at least four dead in Carolinas

The evacuations continued as Florence weakened a bit in its charge towards the East Coast, downgrading from a Category 3 storm to a Category 2, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest update.

The latest prediction shows Florence traveling north along the Virginia coast, and then tacking south back through North Carolina, bringing additional rain to the coast, before heading west to Northwest Georgia.

More than a million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the arrival of Florence, which boasts sustained winds of 130 miles per hour.

Expected to make landfall by Friday, the impact of the storm will be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, risky surf, torrential rainfall, flooding and the potential for tornadoes.

President Donald Trump, warning residents to get out of the way, said the federal government was "ready for the big one that is coming".

The East Coast isn't the only area facing the brunt of a storm.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — Hurricane Florence put a corridor of more than 10 million people in the crosshairs Wednesday as the monster storm closed in on the Carolinas, uncertainty over its projected path spreading worry across a widening swath of the Southeast. But forecasters say there's an increased chance for tropical storm winds to reach Savannah.

Parts of North and SC were forecast to get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 metre).

The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut down to allow traffic to flow inland, but the exodus was slow along roads jammed with outward-bound vehicles. "We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able".

A hurricane warning - meaning hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours - is in effect for a long stretch of the coast, from the South Santee River in SC to Duck, N.C., which is part of the Outer Banks.

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"This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast", said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Hurricane Florence is just days from making landfall in the Carolinas.

"This storm is going to be a direct hit", he added.

Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

The Charleston International Airport will close Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. until further notice, reports George Kearns of South Carolina Public Radio.

But his partner, Emily Whisler, said she will stay at the university where she is a resident in the psychiatry program.

"I rode out Hugo", Miller said of a 1989 hurricane that caused widespread damage.

Authorities advised residents who have not evacuated to go to the highest point in their homes, call 911 for help, keep their cell batteries charged as best they can and wait for help to arrive. North Carolina alone could get from 20 to 30 inches, with isolated spots possibly receiving 40 inches. And Florence remained capable of unleashing rain-fueled catastrophic flooding of rivers and low-lying areas across a wide region.

The dead included a mother and baby who were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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