Besides inundating the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 4m along the Carolina coast, Florence could dump 51cm to 76cm of rain, with up to 1m in parts of North Carolina, the NHC said.
Florence is now expected to begin delivering tropical storm-force winds in the region by early Thursday, escalating to hurricane-force winds by late Thursday or early Friday. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely risky storm for rain and storm surge. Then, it will likely hover along the coast on Saturday (Sunday NZT), pushing up to 4m of storm surge and dumping 50 to 75cm of rain on both states, before slogging over the Appalachian Mountains.
The reason Florence will slowly drift across South Carolina over the weekend is that two high pressure ridges are still expected to be strong enough to force Florence to stall just before, or after, it makes landfall somewhere near the North Carolina/South Carolina border early Friday.
About 10 million people live in areas that were under either hurricane or tropical storm warnings and watches Thursday.
"Just because you're not on the coast doesn't mean you won't get some big impact", Graham said.
The National Hurricane Center warned Thursday that the storm will "pile up water" along the coast.
In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Trump said the government "got A Pluses" for storm recovery in Texas and Florida and "did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico". Despite the downgrade, Florence is expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas. Airlines had canceled almost 1,000 flights and counting.
"We could have these conditions for another 12 hours and it is really exponential in terms of its level of destruction, not only because of the storm surge and the tide cycles that it will go through".
SC governor Henry McMaster confirmed 300,000 people had evacuated on Wednesday and hundreds of thousands more from the three states have evacuated since then.
"I'm not approaching Florence from fear or panic", said Mr Brad Corpening, 35, who planned to ride out the storm in his boarded-up delicatessen in Wilmington.
Between 1 and 3 million people could lose power in the Carolinas in the wake of Hurricane Florence, according to Duke Energy.
Where is Hurricane Florence now?
Residents of the Carolinas and neighboring states should consult local authorities for any evacuation orders and other preparation guidelines.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC.
"I'm lucky to be here today, but wherever they're going to send me I'm going". "There is overwash but nothing we are not used to", she said. Forecasters worry the storm's damage will be worse if it lingers on the coast. "If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing". It's expected to bring tropical storm conditions and up to 5 inches of rain across the Windward Islands, Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico.
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Florence isn't the only one. There are more hurricanes brewing
Hurricane Florence has been quickly strengthening Monday and is on route to severely impact the Carolinas at the end of the week. North and SC and Virginia have already declared states of emergency, and officials have begun evacuations in North Carolina .
Weather Channel simulation is next level
On Thursday morning, South 17th Street, usually teeming with commuter traffic by 6:30 a.m., was almost devoid of cars. According to CNN , the hurricane hit the east coast of the USA with 90-mph winds and relentless rain.