The National Hurricane Center says it's now expected to hit Wilmington and then veer west, taking it south of Charlotte.
The storm's possible track now bends farther to the SW and closer to cities like Jacksonville, but it's the delay and the possible repeat of a Harvey-like storm cycle that has officials and weather forecasters anxious. On Thursday morning, South 17th Street, usually teeming with commuter traffic by 6:30 a.m., was almost devoid of cars.
Heavy flooding is expected, with a storm surge up to 13ft (4 metres) in the area stretching from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, North Carolina.
A hurricane's numerical classification tends to dominate the headlines, but it tells only part of the story - it rates a storm's wind speeds - and not necessarily the most life-threatening part. The governor added that a million or more people could be evacuated before the storm makes landfall.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned that Florence remained deadly because of its size and slow forward speed, even if its top sustained winds have dropped it to Category 2 status as a hurricane.
About 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, the National Weather Service said.
Many seaports and airports along the southeastern US coastline have been shut down, more than 1,000 flights have been canceled, and some highways and bridges in low-lying coastal areas could close soon, as Hurricane Florence gets closer to making landfall. The storm surge could reach up to more than 3.9m, if the maximum surge coincides with high tide.
Although the storm is approaching the US coastline as a Category 2 hurricane after weakening from a Category 4 storm, that doesn't mean the storm will be gentle.
Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The Charleston area is under a storm surge watch.
Models agree that excessive amounts of rain will fall in southeastern North Carolina.
Where exactly the zone of heaviest rain sets up as the storm meanders inland is more uncertain, but models suggest that it may concentrate in southern North Carolina and northern SC through the weekend. "We will not be able to respond to you when the winds get so high". And newly formed Subtropical Storm Joyce is not expected to threaten land soon. The surge won't be as bad as it potentially could have been, however, and the winds won't be as strong. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads.
"Power outages will linger the longest and cause the most trouble", Abrams says.
More than 1 million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia and thousands have moved to emergency shelters.
As the storm - with those winds - nears shallow water along the coast, its forces water inland.
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