Hurricane Florence weakens, US East Coast still on high alert | Infographics

A hog waste lagoon in Pennsylvania

Hurricane Florence is threatening millions of Americans in the southeast, as FEMA warns that this is a very risky storm.

With South Carolina's beach towns now more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.

As of 8 p.m., the storm was centered 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 16 mph (26 kph).

Florence is now expected to pass over much of SC, with storm force winds beginning Thursday and hurricane force winds on Friday, said John Quagliariello with the National Weather Service in Columbia. The Wilmington area can now expect 9-to-13-foot storm surges if Florence's peak impact coincides with high tide, Brunswick County coastal areas west of Southport can expect 6-to-9-foot surges.

But said if you are in an area that normally floods during heavy rains, "You should go ahead and leave".

Update: As of 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, Hurricane Florence has dipped to a Category 2 hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. Favorable wind patterns. Higher sea levels that exacerbate storm surge.

Hurricane Florence, once rumored to strike as a Category-5 storm, will strike with less powerful wind, but it will drop much more rain on the area than initially expected.

But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state.

Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. The storm will most likely strike the coast of North Carolina or SC by late Thursday.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly.

"Heed the warnings", said Byard, adding there was "well over $20 billion" in FEMA's disaster relief fund.

The "Hurricane Hunter" is specially equipped and operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fly through storms to collect data, playing a major role in hurricane forecasting.

The National Weather Service announced around 3:40 p.m. Wednesday that Tropical Storm Joyce had formed in the Atlantic, leaving the disturbance approaching the Texas Gulf Coast still unnamed.

"There's really not a lot of good news", NOAA flight director Paul Flaherty said on "Shepard Smith Reporting".

"I feel just as safe at home as I would at a shelter", Batts said.

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