Flooding from Hurricane Florence swept across the Carolinas early on Friday as the massive storm surged toward the coast, threatening record rainfall and leaving scores trapped by rising waters.
Packing 105 miles per hour wind, Florence is still expected to make landfall early Friday near Wilmington, N.C. It is expected to slowly move west through central SC by Sunday morning.
Florence is expected to go move slowly as it approaches North and SC, whipping hurricane-force winds and dumping relentless rain at least through Saturday.
Florence, which is now a slow-moving Category 2 storm, is expected to linger over the Carolinas before turning north and sliding into western Virginia.
"Just because you're not on the coast doesn't mean you won't get some big impact", Graham said.
The downgraded status of the storm, which indicates that Hurricane Florence is moving at maximum sustained wind speeds of 110 miles per hour, means little in terms of its impact and deadly potential, according to Elliot Abrams, chief forecaster at Accuweather. "But it's moving at a steady clip and baring down on some pretty vulnerable parts of North Carolina". Robert Faircloth has lived in Wilmington, North Carolina, for 62 years. Airlines had canceled almost 1,000 flights and counting. A high-pressure ridge over the Central and Eastern US is said to be blocking the storm's further movement along its original vectors, though it could still curve again once over land.
Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.
Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.
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"I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Florence", Deal said.
Meanwhile, winds and rain were expected to arrive later in SC, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded. Unsure of what they might find when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle.
"We live in a mobile home so we were just like 'No way, '" she said.
Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird. "If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing".
The storm is not expected to change much in strength before making landfall, but states up and down the East Coast have a great potential for severe weather.
At least 280,000 people are already without power as the outskirts of the storm lashed North and SC, and Virginia.
"However, the predictability of such an event is too low to explicitly show in the forecast at this point", the NHC wrote in its 5 a.m. advisory.