Hurricane Florence likely to track over South Carolina, Cause Rain in Triad

The storm strengthened from 130 mph to 140 mph and is Category 4 the NHC said

The storm's maximum sustained winds were clocked at 175kmph late on Wednesday, down from a peak of 225kmph a day earlier, before it was downgraded to a Category 3 and then a Category 2. "Don't bet your life on riding out a monster", Cooper said.

A state of emergency has also been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.

Forecasters say Florence, the first major hurricane to take direct aim at the USA mainland this year, could batter coastal areas with whipping winds, torrential rain and storm surges as high as 9 feet.

"The primary fuel for hurricanes is a warm sea surface, which is getting warmer with climate change", said Dr Kelly McCusker, a climate scientist at the independent economic research firm Rhodium Group.

In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate.

"Watch out, America! #HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km directly above the eye", German astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted.

Air Canada and Alaska Airlines have canceled their flights in and out of RDU on Thursday, but had not made any announcements about Friday as of 9 p.m. Wednesday. At least two dozen utility trucks gathered near Charlotte Motor Speedway to prepare to move in and start restoring power as soon as conditions are safe.

Rainfall totals from Hurricane Florence will top 20 inches in some areas, the National Weather Service says.

The News & Observer reports that the storm's path shifted early Wednesday and it is now bearing down on southern North Carolina and northern SC, where it could dump up to 40 inches of rain in places. It's a big one'.

"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.

Duke Energy, the second-largest energy company in the United States, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its four million customers in the Carolinas. Yesterday officials in Beaufort County, home to Hilton Head Island, held a news conference and urged people to leave voluntarily.

Some forecasters have predicted it could be the most powerful storm ever to hit the region.

Florence's projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons. "It is imperative that everyone follow local evacuation orders".

Mr Graham said the Pamlico and Neuse rivers in North Carolina will see their flows "reversed" as storm surges push water back inland.

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