Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that was later downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a Wilmington hotel several miles inland.
Hurricane-force winds began whipping North Carolina as federal emergency management officials warned that the hurricane remained a "very unsafe storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the coast.
"The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come", he said.
Cooper requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called "historic major damage" across the state.
Cooper said 108 shelters are open across the state, with more than 7,000 people already staying at them, as of Thursday afternoon.
Prisoners were affected, too. And when it comes to impacts like storm surge, size matters just as much as the winds, says Rick Luettich, a coastal physical oceanographer at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill's Institute of Marine Sciences.
Duke Energy serves 4 million people in the Carolinas.
Hurricane Florence, now a Category 2 storm, is slowly approaching the US coast, and the storm's massive fury is on full display in video footage taken from the International Space Station.
Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
Jamie Thompson walks through flooded sections of East Front Street near Union Point Park in New Bern, N.C. Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate throughout Friday.
Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
And now, many more people, houses and buildings are set to endure hurricane-force winds, which extend 80 miles out from Florence's center. Waves off the shore of North Carolina have already gotten as high as 13 feet, he saYS. As if the storm itself is not unsafe enough, it is expected to spawn tornadoes in southeast North Carolina on Thursday and Friday.
Forecasters' European climate model is predicting 2 trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com. "But they may not be that much different in terms of wind speed", said Luettich. The forecast track has the storm moving slowly along the coast throughout Friday and into Saturday.
Even though the storm may weaken to a Category 1 or Category 2 storm, widespread damage is expected. Visit our sister site Live Science for the latest Hurricane Florence forecast.
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico previous year.
Gerst tweeted some more images and warnings to the people in the path of the storm.
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