Hurricane Florence is churning towards the USA east coast, prompting authorities to order more than a million people to evacuate the path of the extremely risky storm, which forecasters said could soon intensify.
Adding to the storm stress is uncertainty about where exactly Florence will make landfall, after a shift in its track put more of the Southeast in danger.
Hurricane Florence, growing in size despite its weakening winds, churned ever closer to the U.S. East Coast on Wednesday as evacuations expanded south from the Carolinas into Georgia to counter the threat of deadly high seas and calamitous floods.
People walk past storm shuttered buildings on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk in Myrtle Beach.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
"Data from an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft along with satellite imagery and various intensity estimates indicate that Florence has weakened instead of strengthening".
The East Coast isn't the only area facing the brunt of a storm.
A woman walks her bike across a street near a boarded up bar a day before the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington.
United States media say more than one million people have been ordered to evacuate. "We are ready. We're as ready as anybody's ever been".
The rest of South and North Carolina as well as southwest Virginia may see up to 24 inches of rain.
The NHC notes that amount of rainfall would "produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding".
The storm is likely to die out by Wednesday, the forecaster said.
"It's a very unsafe storm", Federal Emergency Management Authority administrator Jeff Byard said.
"This is not going to be a glancing blow", Byard said, warning of power outages, road closures, infrastructure damage and potential loss of life.
Duke Energy Corp expected between 25 percent and 75 percent of its 4 million customers would lose power in the Carolinas.
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 centre reaching the coast Friday.
The first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) were forecast to hit the coast on Thursday.
"No hurricane landfall forecast is simple". "I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas".
The governor of neighbouring North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination, and parts of coastal Dare County, while a state of emergency was declared in Virginia.
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