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'Very dangerous' hurricane starts battering US East Coast

16 September 2018

The cone of probability for Hurricane Florence as of 11:00 p.m. EDT, Sept. 13, 2018.

Hurricane Florence has dropped to a Category 2 status, but it remains "very risky storm" that will hit nearly all of North Carolina, and everybody "needs to pay attention and seek cover", Sen.

As of 8 a.m., the Category 2 storm was centered about 170 miles (275 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 220 miles (355 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Adding to concerns, forecasters warned the larger and slow-moving storm could linger for days around the coast, leaving many without power and supplies.

As of 8am ET on Thursday, Florence was driving maximum sustained winds of 110mph (177km/h), according to an updated forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

If the European model is true or the overall trend persists, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said it "is exceptionally bad news, as it smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge". The storm's overall movement has slowed to 10 miles per hour.

What damage will it cause?

Florence is becoming more of a threat to more people - now including some in Georgia - in more ways. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. But the danger comes not so much from the wind as from the storm surges, which could raise the sea level to 4 meters in some points and flood the coast.

Brenda Bethune told NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning that public safety crews have been checking to make sure businesses are secure, and looking for anything that could become a projectile as the winds come ashore. Tropical storm force winds extend up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the center. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by what has been described as the most severe storm to hit the region in decades.

Duke Energy said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.

The storm has a wide reach, too.

The police chief of a barrier island in Florence's approach said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave.

"It's going to coming roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say 'I'm not sure I really want to do this and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly. "I've got four cats inside the house".

'Very dangerous' hurricane starts battering US East Coast