MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA-Time is running short to get out of the way of Hurricane "Florence," a monster of a storm that has a region of more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights as it zeroes in on the U.S. southeast coast. The storm was moving west-northwest at 10 miles per hour with winds that have decreased significantly to 100 miles per hour.
It is now heading towards the US East Coast that it is predicted to hit on Friday.
Forecasters said conditions would only get more lethal when the storm smashed ashore early on Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and crawled slowly inland.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 160 kph, but that could still cause at least $1 billion in damage.
Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 3.4 metres of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 900mm of rain, triggering severe flooding.
A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina. "But we can't replace us so we chose to come here". "We've prepared all our supplies at home and frankly, we were bored". "So, there's not a lot of capacity to soak up the extra water", Samson said.
"It does look a bit similar to Harvey in a sense that it goes roaring into shore and then comes to a screeching stop", said MIT meteorology professor and hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel.
Sixteen kilometres away in Wilmington, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.
Air Force General Terrence J O'Shaughnessy, head of US Command, said search and rescue is a top priority but that the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of rescuers. "I am frightened about what's coming".
"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said.
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.
In Hampton Roads, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Poquoson to the Virginia-North Carolina border, including the lower James and York rivers.
Around 12,000 individuals are also in 126 evacuation shelters across the state ahead of the hurricane's landfall.
The hurricane center is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast on Saturday with winds of around 130 kph before landfall, but with rainfall ranging from 50 to 75 centimeters and up to 4 meters of storm surge.
Myrtle Beach, a SC beach resort, was virtually deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.
Despite pleas from officials, some residents rejected calls to evacuate.
"Little change in strength is expected before the center reaches the coast, with weakening expected after the center moves inland." the NHC said.
Duke Energy said the hurricane could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
General O'Shaughnessy said there were about 7,000 United States military personnel now in place and ready to respond to the storm, along with ships, helicopters, high-wheeled vehicles and other equipment.
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