Wind approaches outer banks of North Carolina

Although the storm is approaching the usa coastline as a Category 2 hurricane after weakening from a Category 4 storm, that doesn't mean the storm will be gentle.

"They'll be looking very closely at major transmission lines that have tens of thousands of customers associated with them", Penn said.

Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Florence's forward motion had slowed and it was not expected to make landfall in the Carolinas until "some time Friday afternoon, Friday evening or Saturday morning".

But forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast for days - will bring life-threatening storm surge and torrential rains. He compares Hurricane Florence with Hurricane Isabel, which hit the Virginia and North Carolina area at a similar strength in 2003, leaving about a million people without power and Hatteras Island battered.

He spent the last few hours of calm before the storm visiting those who stayed, collecting contact information for their next-of-kin. "Today the threat becomes a reality".

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm approached, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

Air Force General Terrence J.

He said the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of the state-activated National Guard troops.

A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia - as well as the U.S. capital Washington.

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The hurricane centre also said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as the storm neared shore.

Mr Cooper's office said the current emergency declaration was helping state officials prepare for the storm.

The American Red Cross has already mobilized more than 1,500 disaster workers to aid in the relief efforts as residents hunker down or flee ahead of Florence.

Those surges alone are projected to cause inland flooding of more than 9 feet in cities like New Bern, North Carolina, even without the expected 15 to 20 inches of rain.

"The vast majority of the time the horses know what to do, and they are able to get to higher ground or protect themselves", said Gillikin. "Because it's Mother Nature". That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.

Further south, just north of South America, is where you'll find Tropical Storm Isaac, a system packing maximum winds of around 65 km/h.

Homeless after losing her job at Walmart three months ago, 25-year-old Brittany Jones went to a storm shelter at a high school near Raleigh.

Mr Epperson said: "The anxiety level has dropped substantially". She packed up what she could and took a ferry. "Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring everyone together. A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight".

An estimated 3 million people across the Carolinas could be without power before long, and the lights may be out for weeks in some areas, said the region's largest provider, Duke Energy.

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