Hurricane Florence is also expected to cause widespread environmental damage, including triggering catastrophic waste spills from sewage treatment plants, hog waste lagoons and chicken farms that line the Carolinas coast.
Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 120 miles per hour winds on Thursday but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore. Despite the downgrade, Florence is expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas.
And in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, hospitals are racing to evacuate patients. A slow motion over eastern SC is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.
As of 2 p.m. EDT today (Sept. 12), Florence was a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) at its location about 435 miles (700 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Cooper said the storm will dump historic amounts of rain on eastern North Carolina.
Florence will then recurve across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.
More than 12,000 people fleeing the storm have taken shelter at 126 shelters open across the state.
The outer bands of the storm were already reaching the coast Thursday, bringing tropical-force winds and rain.
Pitt County Animal Control in North Carolina moved all 58 of its animals into temporary neighborhood foster care and partnered with a farmer's market next door with the crates to make room for over 200 new rescues Thursday night, said director Michele Whaley.
Hurricane center forecasters warn that as Florence's wind speeds weaken, the storm size increases.
"There is going to be a lot of rain". "We have days more to go".
Southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC...20 to 30 inches, isolated 40 inches.
The NHC said that between 20 and 30 inches of rain could fall in some areas.
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In nearby Methuen, police chief Joseph Solomon said 20 to 25 homes were on fire in Lawrence when he responded to help. There were 38 fires in Andover alone and at the peak of the incident, 18 fires were burning at the same time.
This rainfall will produce life-threatening flash flooding. Its surge of ocean water could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 13 feet, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.
At least 800 flights have been cancelled or grounded due to the storm's expected landfall, CNN reported.
No storm-related deaths or serious injuries were reported in the hours immediately after Florence hit but authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.
In preparation for the storm, officials in five states and Washington, D.C. have all declared states of emergency. By late Wednesday, the authorities in North Carolina reported almost 7,000 evacuees staying in 71 emergency shelters throughout the state. But authorities warned it will still be an extremely unsafe hurricane.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...
A long stretch of the United States eastern seaboard remained vulnerable to hurricane and tropical storm conditions, from Georgia north through the Carolinas into Virginia.
"Even inland it's not just going to be a coastal event here, along rivers in the Greenville and Simpson area we could be talking about six up to potentially nine feet of storm surge, given how that high tide comes in with that storm".
Areas that will be particularly susceptible to tropical storm conditions will be our far southeastern zones.
"Get prepared on the East Coast", Gerst warned when Tweeting the photo.
The storm's potential impact prompted President Donald Trump to make a surprise phone call to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo on Thursday afternoon. Wilmington and Brunswick County communities like Bolivia and Oak Island have seen rainfall up to 8 inches.
Helene was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Thursday.
At Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina where landfall is expected, the wind has picked up and so have the waves.
Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic.