Tens of thousands were without power.
While the storm system will churn over the same areas for 24 hours, the high winds and rain will begin pummeling parts of North and South Carolina Thursday evening and last through Saturday - creating a 36 to 48-hour period of unsafe weather for some areas. Heavy rainfall began after dark.
Eight months of rain will fall on North and SC in three days, forecasters have warned, as Hurricane Florence crawls towards the east coast of the United States. When Florence started battering eastern North Carolina with record rainfall, the Neuse and Trent rivers began to swell - and combined with high tide, made for risky flooding.
"While we expect an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 40 inches of rain, extensive inland flooding and storm surge flooding from Florence, Hurricane Harvey unleashed more than 60 inches of rain locally centered around the United States' fourth largest city, Houston, which has a population of 2.3 million", AccuWeather Founder and President Dr. Joel N. Myers said. The National Weather Center upgraded Subtropical Storm Joyce to Tropical Storm Joyce in its 11 p.m. Thursday update.
Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.
The slow pace will also create incredible rain totals of more than 20 inches over portions of North and SC.
The danger of chemicals escaping in a storm is real: after Hurricane Harvey previous year, the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas released a toxic cloud into the nearby community after being flooded and losing power, resulting in hundreds of evacuations. "Today the threat becomes a reality", according to The Associated Press.
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More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
The hurricane center downgraded Florence to a tropical storm later in the day.
"For further context, we accurately estimated the total economic impact from Hurricane Irma would be $100 billion".
"Just because the wind speeds came down and the intensity of this storm came down to a Category 2, please do not let your guard down", Brock Long, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, told reporters Thursday in Washington. Be SAFE! " Trump tweeted on Wednesday.
That scenario has a high probability of occurring in much of North Carolina, a large portion of SC and parts of northern Georgia. Also, a 77-year-old man was apparently knocked down by the wind and died after going out to check on his hunting dogs, Lenoir County authorities said, and the governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain. Some of the few people still left in Nags Head on the Outer Banks took photos of angry waves topped with white froth.
"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse. "Because it's Mother Nature". According to stats compiled from Weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue, about 17 trillion gallons of rain will fall over the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated.
About 10 million people live in the storm's path and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
NASA Footage Shows Strengthening Hurricane Florence From Space
Forecasters said Florence could become an extremely unsafe major hurricane sometime Monday and remain that way for days. Astronaut Alexander Gerst provides a view straight down into the eye of Hurricane Florence, headed toward the U.S.
Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Another said she was watching the forecasts, and would be ready to pack up and leave at the last minute if she had to. Calls for help kept coming in as the wind picked up and the tide arrived, said city public information officer Colleen Roberts. "A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight".
Florence's centre was about 40km east of Wilmington, North Carolina at 4am on Friday and moving west at 10km/h, the NHC said.
With storm surges of up to 11 feet predicted as Hurricane Florence strikes the Carolinas Friday, The Weather Channel created this sobering simulation with graphics that shows how unsafe that is - by putting their meteorologists into the virtual world. But previous research has shown that the strongest hurricanes are getting wetter, more intense and intensifying faster because of human-caused climate change.
The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 90 miles per hour (144 kph) by nightfall.
"Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated", said Fisher, 74. We've got things boarded up.
Montgomery explained that even though they have extra crews on standby, that does not mean your power will get turned back on right away.
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Cheryl Browning lives with her husband and son, who has terminal cancer, in Richlands, North Carolina.