Hurricane Florence's wrath begins today.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.
It was located about 85 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 145 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Meanwhile, winds and rain were expected to arrive later in SC, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded. The National Hurricane Center is calling for 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimeters) of rain in North Carolina, with spots up to 40 inches (100 centimeters).
Kelly Salisbury said she's staying put in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, even though most of the town left.
The city of Jacksonville's statement says people have been moved to the city's public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter. Pfaff described the storm surge as "life-threatening".
None of the people rescued were injured.
Tens of thousands of people are already without power.
The Miami-based center says Florence is bringing "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas.
And as the storm pushes inland, it could dump 6-10 inches as far inland as Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina as well as in Roanoke, Virginia, he said. That forecast area also includes part of southwest Virginia.
The storm's intensity held at about 90 miles per hour (144 kph), and it appeared that the north side of the eye was the most unsafe place to be as Florence moved ashore.
"We have volunteers on standby - some to feed people, others with chainsaws, etc.", explained Chad Austin, with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Hurricane Florence has developed into a major storm over extremely warm water, Ginis said.
"Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience". "That's the second story of a house", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday morning. The storm was moving northwest at 12 miles per hour.
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Evacuations in United States ahead of Hurricane Florence
Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches (one meter) of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and SC . Millions urged to flee inland hours before it was due to announce its arrival with torrential downpours. .
About 400 Virginians are in shelters, Stern estimated.
Prisoners were affected, too. Millions of people were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks.
Cooper and his SC counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been directed to leave that if they don't do so, they are on their own. A further 10 million people are now under some form of storm watch.
About midday on Thursday (local time), Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City. Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers.
A simulation of Florence for Saturday as the storm tracks over SC.
Storms have previously battered North and South Carolina - Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was particularly severe - but storms of Florence's scope, with winds of upwards of 130mph, are rare in this region.
The Michigan-sized storm is set to linger for days and cause catastrophic flooding with up to four feet of rain and 13-foot storm surges.
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.
While the storm weakened, forecasters still predict up to 9 feet of storm surge in the Myrtle Beach area.
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 past year.
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.
"We'll operate without power; we have candles".
"This is our only home".
"We lost power at home so we figured we should come to the bar", said Carla Mahaffee, a 33-year-old actor from Wilmington, as she drank a cider.