Hurricane Florence starts battering US East Coast

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"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", said Linda Smith, 67, a retired non-profit director.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, Florence was centred about 230km southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 17km/h. Instead of roaring ashore and quickly heading inland and weakening, as most storms do, Hurricane Florence should instead "stall near the coast and then parallel southwestward toward Georgia", Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Postel said.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper urged residents to remain alert despite changing forecasts.

Hurricane Florence, still a potentially deadly Category 2 hurricane, continued its destructive path for the Carolinas on Thursday and was expected to make landfall sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. Don't get complacent. Stay on guard. President Donald Trump said there was nothing to fear because his administration did such good work responding to last year's storms - including Hurricane Maria, which killed 3,000 people in Puerto Rico. "Today the threat becomes a reality", he said.

The center of Florence is expected to approach the coasts of the Carolinas today and move over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC tonight and Friday. Hours before a mandatory evacuation took effect, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, resident Phoebe Tesh paused while loading her auto to have a glass of wine on the steps of the house where she and her husband rent an apartment. Ten million people are now under some kind of weather advisory.

"I said, 'Why get on the road like this?" Florence is now a strong Category 2 storm.

He said hurricane-force winds extend outward 130 km (80 miles) from the centre of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extend almost 322 km (200 miles) out.

Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the storm with his dog Canelo.

Airlines cancelled almost 1,000 flights and counting.

It is unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. The shopping list for people who have made a decision to ride out the storm at home: plywood to board up their windows, sandbags, bilge pumps, generators, trash bags, potato chips, bottled water and wine. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1,100 trucks.

Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive rainfall, NOAA noted.

Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that has since been downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a hotel in Wilmington several miles inland. "I've got four cats inside the house".

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