Hurricane Florence now a Category 3, but remains ‘extremely dangerous’

Carolinas brace for Hurricane Florence which is going to be a 'Mike Tyson punch' to the coast FEMA official warns

While some weakening is expected to begin by late Thursday, Florence is still forecast to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane when it nears the USA coast on Friday.

At 2 p.m., the storm was centered 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 16 mph.

The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's center reaching the coast Friday.

Florence will weaken once it stops drawing energy from warm ocean waters, but it's still expected to make landfall late Thursday or early Friday as an extremely unsafe major hurricane.

"We're still looking at the potential for heavy rainfall that could produce flooding", she said.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper told locals not to "bet your life on riding out a monster", with ferocious winds set to batter the shoreline.

A hurricane warning was issued for South Santee River, SC, north to Duck, NC, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. There are 5.25 million people under hurricane warnings and watches and another 4.89 million under tropical storm watches and warnings.

At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two other storms, Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac.

Coastal residents are not the only people attempting to move out of harm's way of Hurricane Florence.

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In addition to the dangers the expected deluge of water poses, the hurricane center cautioned, "A few tornadoes are possible in eastern North Carolina beginning late Thursday morning".

Experts predict that the storm could bring rainfall up to 40 inches and up to 13 feet of floodwater in some areas.

"Forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern SC and North Carolina's Outer Banks as a strong Category 3 on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs".

The NHC said Helene was weakening, however, and posed no danger to land.

The slow movement, combined with the massive amount of moisture this storm holds, will bring unsafe rains - from 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina and 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says.

On Wednesday morning, the president urged those in the path of Florence to "get out of its way".

"Just because we have a landfall to your south, that doesn't mean you're out of the woods, because the winds are huge around this system", NHC Director Ken Graham said, pointing out the wide risk of flooding. We're still watching the forecast track fairly closely.

The impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide. Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency invoked a former boxing champion to warn residents that it would bring "a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast".

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