The Latest: Monster Hurricane Florence aims to drench Carolinas

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4:25 p.m.

South Carolina’s most popular tourist destination is riding out Hurricane Florence without major problems so far.

In North Myrtle Beach, rain has been falling nearly all day and tree branches and limbs are on some roads. The power is out on the main strip, but almost no vehicles are on the six-lane highway through the center of town other than police.

North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling says three-quarters of the area’s 37,000 electric customers are without power.

To the south, Myrtle Beach was faring better. Power outages were spotty, and Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea says no significant property damage has been reported.

No areas in South Carolina reported problems with surge from the ocean as winds continued from the land pushing water away.

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4:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is preparing to travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence next week.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump will travel to the region “early to middle of next week.”

She adds his trip will take place “once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts.”

Aides say Trump has been monitoring the massive storm from the White House, and he has taken to Twitter to encourage those in its path to listen to their local authorities for how best to remain safe.

The storm, blamed for at least three fatalities, has inundated parts of the Carolina coast with heavy rain and high winds.

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3:05 p.m.

A mother and infant in North Carolina are dead after a tree fell on their home – the first two fatalities of Hurricane Florence.

The Wilmington Police Department said Friday that the two were killed when a tree fell on their house. The father was transported to a hospital for treatment. No other information was given.

The hurricane came ashore early Friday, pounding the state with torrential rain and high winds.

Forecasters have been predicting catastrophic flash flooding. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says more than 16 inches of rain have fallen at locations in southeast North Carolina and another 20 to 25 inches is on the way.

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2 p.m.

A weakening Hurricane Florence is almost at a standstill over southeastern North Carolina.

It just barely has Category 1 hurricane strength with top sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).

At 2 p.m., Florence was centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was crawling west at 5 mph (7 kph).

The National Hurricane Center said Florence was forecast to keep moving farther inland across the Carolinas through the weekend before turning toward the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 170 miles (280 kilometers).

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1:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service says 14 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen north of Swansboro, North Carolina and it’s only going to get worse.

Weather Prediction Center senior forecaster David Roth said catastrophic flash flooding is expected to continue to worsen Friday.

He said that the heavy rainfall for southeast North Carolina is only one-third to one-quarter the way over.

“Plenty of heavy rain remains in the future for this region,” Roth wrote in the weather center’s rain forecast discussion.

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1 p.m.

Flights are grounded at several airports in the Southeast as Hurricane Florence barges through the region.

By midday Friday, airlines had canceled more than 2,100 U.S. flights from the storm’s approach on Wednesday through Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware.

The region’s two largest airports, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, had more than 200 cancellations on Friday. That’s about half the flights in Raleigh and one in eight at Charlotte.

That’s not much compared with last year’s Hurricane Harvey, which flooded runways at two major airports and caused airlines to scrub more than 11,000 flights in Houston alone.

The Federal Aviation Administration says Charleston International Airport in South Carolina isn’t expected to reopen until Monday night. Wilmington International in North Carolina expects to reopen at noon Saturday.

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12:25 a.m.

Florence’s total rainfall will likely be staggeringly huge.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue (MOW-ee) of weathermodels.com calculates that Hurricane Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain in seven days over the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.

That doesn’t quite measure up to the 25 trillion gallons Harvey dropped on Texas and Louisiana last year. Maue says Harvey stalled longer and stayed closer to the coast, which enabled it to keep sucking moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Still, 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay. It’s enough to cover the entire state of Texas with nearly four inches (10 centimeters) of water.

That much rain is 2.4 trillion cubic feet (68 billion cubic meters). It’s enough to cover Manhattan with nearly 3,800 feet (1.1 kilometers) of water, more than twice as high as the island’s tallest building.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough rain to cover the Tar Heel state in about 10 inches (25 centimeters) of water.

Maue calculates that 34 million people will get at least 3 inches, with more than 5.7 million getting at least a foot and about 1.5 million getting 20 inches or more.

10:15 a.m.

Rivers are rising on the north side of Hurricane Florence as the storm swirls counter-clockwise, pushing a surge of ocean water far in from the coast.

Rainfall also is swelling waterways: Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com calculated that 34 million people in the U.S. are forecast to get at least 3 inches of rain from Hurricane Florence, with more than 5.7 million people probably getting at least a foot of rain.

In Washington, North Carolina, the wind-swept Pamlico River has risen beyond its banks and is flooding entire neighborhoods. Floodwaters submerged U.S. Highway 264, cutting off a major route to other flood-prone areas along the river and the adjacent Pamlico Sound.

Downtown New Bern, on the Neuse River also is flooded. The city tweeted early Friday that 150 people were awaiting rescue.

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10 a.m.

Federal officials are urging anyone who ignored orders to evacuate from Hurricane Florence to hunker down and stay put until the storm passes.

And they say people who are truly in an emergency should call 911, not just Tweet about it.

The disaster area was expected to get about as much rain in three days as the 1999 Dennis and Floyd storms dropped in two weeks.

About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats. The Army Corps of Engineers were preparing to start work restoring power, installing temporary roofing and removing debris.

Charley English of the American Red Cross said anyone wondering how to help from afar can donate blood, registering first at their local Red Cross websites.

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9:30 a.m.

Wind speeds are kicking up far from the coast in central South Carolina as Hurricane Florence slowly makes its way along the coast.

The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of up to 21 mph (34 kph) on Friday morning in Columbia.

That’s about 220 miles (354 kilometers) from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. Friday, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

Wind gusts as high as 60 mph (96 kph) were recorded in the Myrtle Beach area.

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9:10 a.m.

Forecasters say the eye of Hurricane Florence is wobbling slowly southwestward just off the coast of southeastern North Carolina, near the border with South Carolina.

The hurricane’s top sustained winds have dropped to 85 mph (140 kph), while it moves slowly toward South Carolina at 6 mph (9 kph).

At 9 a.m. the center of the hurricane was about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east of Myrtle Beach.

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9 a.m

Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the U.S. electricity sector has been well prepared for Hurricane Florence even as hundreds of thousands of homes lose power in the storm.

Speaking during a visit to Moscow less than an hour after the hurricane made landfall in North Carolina, Perry says “we’ve done this many times before. We know how to manage expectations. We know how to prepare our plants for these types of major events.”

Perry says his department has been in contact with power companies and gas pipeline operators. He says that “over the years the state government and the federal government have become very coordinated in their ability to manage the pre-deployment of assets (and) the response to the citizens of those states, and we will soon be into the recovery.”

More than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation’s electrical grid.

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8:15 a.m.

Hurricane Florence is dumping rain on North Carolina and pushing a storm surge taller than most humans onto communities near the coast.

The center of the eye of the hurricane made landfall in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and was moving slowly westward just south of Wilmington.

Coastal and river communities on the north side of Florence are getting the worst of the flooding as the hurricane swirls onto land pushing a life-threatening storm surge.

More than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday morning according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation’s electrical grid.

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7:45 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence has finally made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph), making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.

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7:15 a.m.

Forecasters say the center of the eye of Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph), but a gust of 112 mph (180 kph) was reported just offshore.

The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.

At 7 a.m., the center of the eye was located about 5 miles (10 kilometers) east of Wilmington, moving west at 6 mph.

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7 a.m.

It’s about the water, not the wind, with Hurricane Florence making an extended stay along the North Carolina coast.

Forecasters say “it cannot be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland.”

Top winds were holding at 90 mph — that’s just a Category 1 hurricane — but some communities were already submerged in more than six feet of water as the storm drenched the coast.

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6 a.m.

National Hurricane Center: Florence about to make landfall in N. Carolina causing life-threatening storm surge.

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.

As of 6 a.m., Florence was 10 miles (20 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

The Miami-based center says Florence is bringing “catastrophic” fresh water flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas.

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5:50 a.m.

A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence.

The city of Jacksonville’s statement says people have been moved to the city’s public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter.

Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing.

None of the people rescued were injured.

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5:00 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.

As of 5 a.m., Florence was 25 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence’s arrival would come with “catastrophic” fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.

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4:25 a.m.

A North Carolina city situated between two rivers says it has around 150 people waiting to be rescued from rising flood waters from Hurricane Florence.

WXII-TV reports the city of New Bern said Friday that two out-of-state FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more teams were on the way. City spokeswoman Colleen Roberts tells WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been rescued.

The National Hurricane Center says the Neuse River near the city is recording more than 10 feet (3.05 meters) of inundation. Roberts says the storm surge continues to increase as Florence passes over the area.

The city warns that people “may need to move up to the second story” but tells them to stay put as “we are coming to get you.”

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4 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says the eyewall of Hurricane Florence is beginning to reach the North Carolina coast.

As of 4 a.m., Florence was 30 miles (45 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland.

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3:30 a.m.

Life-threatening storm surge is being reported along the coast of the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said early Friday that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of Wilmington.

As of 3 a.m., Florence hadn’t moved and was still centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

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2 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says that “catastrophic” freshwater flooding is expected over portions of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence inches closer to the U.S. East Coast.

The now Category 1 storm’s intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 mph (135 kph) by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm’s slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

As of 2 a.m., Florence was centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

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11 p.m.

Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come.

Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence’s leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.

The storm’s intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 mph (135 kph) by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm’s slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

Forecasters said Florence’s surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding.

8:15 a.m.
  
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) – Hurricane Florence is dumping rain on North Carolina and pushing a storm surge taller than most humans onto communities near the coast.
  
The center of the eye of the hurricane made landfall in Wrightsville, North Carolina, and was moving slowly westward just south of Wilmington.
  
Coastal and river communities on the north side of Florence are getting the worst of the flooding as the hurricane swirls onto land pushing a life-threatening storm surge.
  
More than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday morning according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation’s electrical grid.
  
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7:45 a.m.
  
The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence has finally made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina.
  
The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph), making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.
  
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7:15 a.m.
  
Forecasters say the center of the eye of Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina.
  
It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph), but a gust of 112 mph (180 kph) was reported just offshore.
  
The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.
  
At 7 a.m., the center of the eye was located about 5 miles (10 kilometers) east of Wilmington, moving west at 6 mph.
  
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7 a.m.
  
It’s about the water, not the wind, with Hurricane Florence making an extended stay along the North Carolina coast.
  
Forecasters say “it cannot be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland.”
  
Top winds were holding at 90 mph — that’s just a Category 1 hurricane — but some communities were already submerged in more than six feet of water as the storm drenched the coast.
  
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6 a.m.
  
National Hurricane Center: Florence about to make landfall in N. Carolina causing life-threatening storm surge.
  
The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.
  
As of 6 a.m., Florence was 10 miles (20 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).
  
The Miami-based center says Florence is bringing “catastrophic” fresh water flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas.
  
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5:50 a.m.
  
A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence.
  
The city of Jacksonville’s statement says people have been moved to the city’s public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter.
  
Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing.
  
None of the people rescued were injured.
  
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5:00 a.m.
  
The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.
  
As of 5 a.m., Florence was 25 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).
  
The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence’s arrival would come with “catastrophic” fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.
  

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) – The Latest on Hurricane Florence (all times local):
  
11 p.m.
  
Florence has been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph).
  
The National Hurricane Center says Florence is now lashing the North Carolina coast with hurricane -force winds and a life-threatening storm surge. It says the threat of freshwater flooding will increase in coming hours and days from the storm’s heavy rains.
  
The Miami-based center said in an update at 11 p.m. EDT Thursday that the storm’s eye was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Morehead, City, North Carolina. The core is also about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.
  
The storm is moving to the northwest at 6 mph (9 kph).
  
Forecasters say the center of Florence is expected to move inland between Friday and Saturday.
  
Far out in the Atlantic, Joyce strengthened into a tropical storm on Thursday evening with top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph). The center says that storm is about 1,040 miles (1,670) kilometers west-southwest of the Azores and no coastal watches or warnings are in effect. Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Helene is forecast to pass near the Azores on Saturday, and Tropical Storm Isaac is moving west across the eastern Caribbean.
  
This item has been corrected to show storm is moving to northwest at 6 mph (9 kph).
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3:15 p.m.

South Carolina officials say more than 400,000 people have evacuated the state’s coast and more than 4,000 people have taken refuge in shelters as Hurricane Florence approaches.

State Transportation Department Secretary Christy Hall said Thursday that an estimated 421,000 residents had left the coast.

Acting Department of Social Services Director Joan Meacham says shelters are about 12 percent full with the 4,000 residents. Meacham says the state can house more than 35,000 people if needed. She says 61 shelters have opened thus far, including 12 that are specially outfitted to help people with special medical needs.

Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of most of the state’s coastline as the storm approaches.

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2:45 p.m.

Officials say Hurricane Florence could bring not only flooding but also landslides to South Carolina.

The National Weather Service is forecasting “significant” river flooding, especially in the northeastern portion of the state. That same area experienced dangerous flooding after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters Thursday that up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain in the state’s northwestern mountains could mean landslides and dangerous conditions.

McMaster has ordered evacuations along much of the state’s coast. He warned residents to be prepared to be without electricity “for a long time” in the storm’s aftermath.

The outer bands of Hurricane Florence have begun to impact the coast of North Carolina.

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2:45 p.m.

Two amphibious Navy ships are on standby to respond and provide disaster relief after Hurricane Florence moves through.

Navy Lt. Jamie Seibel said Thursday that the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the amphibious transport ship USS Arlington are the two ships that have been tapped to respond.

Seibel says about 800 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are aboard the two ships, which will move directly to where they are needed once the storm passes.

Seibel said the ships already have the resources and supplies they need, including a fleet surgical team, engineers and damage assessment personnel, as well as heavy- and medium-lift helicopters, search-and-rescue aircraft and smaller ship-to-shore landing craft.

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2:45 p.m.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says hurricane-force winds are starting to get really close to shore as Florence slowly nears the Carolinas.

Graham says it may not be until Monday or Tuesday before the system moves away from North Carolina and South Carolina. He says that in the storm’s wake will be a lot of rainfall, a lot of river flooding and “a lot of issues.”

Television footage Thursday afternoon showed water in a street at knee level due to storm surge in New Bern, North Carolina.

Graham says that because so much water is being pushed ashore by Florence, rivers and inlets that normally flow out to sea will be forced to flow in the opposite direction. Storm surge also could push several miles (kilometers) inland.

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2 p.m.

Power outages already are creeping up along the North Carolina coast as tropical storm-force winds started sweeping over land.

Electric utilities and cooperatives reported about 12,000 outages statewide as of early Thursday afternoon, with nearly all of them at the coast. Most of the homes and businesses without electricity are in Carteret and Craven counties. Both are north of the eye’s projected path and expected to get massive amounts of rain- potentially 20 inches (50 centimeters) or more.

Duke Energy is the largest of the utilities in the Carolinas. The company predicts Carolinas power outages caused by Florence will range from 1 million to 3 million customers. It’s got more than 20,000 workers from the Carolinas and other states in place to restore power.

Duke reported few South Carolina outages Thursday afternoon.

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2 p.m.

The only route off North Carolina’s Hatteras Island has closed as Hurricane Florence approaches.

Officials with the state Transportation Department said Thursday afternoon that N.C. Highway 12 was closed in both directions on Hatteras Island, part of the Outer Banks.

The closure means that people who chose to ride out the storm now officially have no way off the island. The two-lane highway is the only route to the mainland other than ferries.

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2 p.m.

Forecasters say Hurricane Florence won’t change much before its eye makes landfall.

As of 2 p.m. Thursday, the Category 2 storm was centered about 110 miles (180 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 165 miles (270 kilometers) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Its forward movement was 10 mph (17 kph) and top sustained winds stayed at 105 mph (165 kph).

Florence’s outer bands of wind and rain began lashing North Carolina on Thursday. Its center will approach the coast later Thursday and make landfall around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say the storm will weaken after landfall but also linger, dumping heavy rains for days.

Florence’s hurricane-force winds were blowing 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached up to 195 miles (315 kilometers) from the eye.

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1:15 p.m.

An emergency management official in one of the most populated areas of coastal North Carolina says winds from the storm have already arrived and other impacts won’t be far behind.

New Hanover County Emergency Management Director Steven Still said Thursday that residents who didn’t evacuate should expect 60 mph (97 kph) winds by 7 p.m. that would eventually increase to 100 mph (161 kph) or more.

Still says residents “can expect to have that wind to the tune of 100 mph-plus stay on us for considerable period of time.”

Still says landfall is expected around 8 a.m. Friday in the Wrightsville Beach area, and he said the area could see 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 cms) of rain and beaches could get 9 to 10 to feet (about 3m) of storm surge.

Wrightsville Beach Mayor William Blair says evacuations are complete.

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1:15 p.m.

The head of Duke Energy Corp.’s North Carolina operations says it could take weeks to restore electricity if the company’s prediction that 1 million to 3 million of its 4 million customers lose power due to Hurricane Florence.

Duke Energy executive David Fountain said Thursday that flooding from the slow-moving Florence must recede before crews can start sizing up needed repairs. He says based on the experience with Hurricane Matthew two years ago, it could be days before assessments start and the major electricity provider in the Carolinas can estimate when power can be restored.

Fountain says outages in the worst-hit areas could last for weeks.

He says repair crews will go where they can do the most good and won’t prioritize Duke Energy customers over the electric cooperatives and municipal utilities that buy and resell power.

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12:15 p.m.

A flight-tracking service says about 1,200 U.S. airline flights scheduled for Thursday or Friday have been canceled, with some airports in the Carolinas essentially shut down.

FlightAware said in its midday report Thursday that the number of canceled flights is relatively small and could increase.

However, the hurricane’s effect on the nationwide air-travel system will be less than feared if, as now forecast, Florence veers away from the American Airlines hub airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, and doesn’t score a direct hit on Delta Air Lines’ massive hub in Atlanta.

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11:50 a.m.

Meteorologists are saying Hurricane Florence is going to cause damage that exceeds $10 billion and could reach as much as $50 billion.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Thursday that rainfall flooding will cause at least $6 billion, storm surge another $3 billion, and wind damage about $1 billion. He says the $10 billion mark is based on Hurricane Matthew a couple years ago, and is just a starting point.

Accuweather founder Joel Myers is estimating $50 billion to $60 billion in damage.

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11:50 a.m.

One of South Carolina’s major power companies is warning customers to be wary of fallen power lines and other hazards that could come after Hurricane Florence’s arrival.

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. CEO Keller Kissam gave updates to reporters Thursday in a news conference at the company’s headquarters in Cayce (KAY-cee).

Kissam says the storm, which is expected to bring torrential rains and sustained winds, could mean that it takes linemen longer to repair any power problems, in part due to concerns for their own safety.

Kissam says SCE&G has been in touch with other power companies in the Southeast that are willing to help with any problems after the storm. Kissam says crews are already in South Carolina from other states, including Mississippi.

SCE&G has more than 700,000 power customers in South Carolina.

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11:50 a.m.

The Virginia National Guard says 1,200 personnel are staged and ready to respond as Hurricane Florence approaches.

Guard officials said in a statement Thursday that soldiers, airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force are staged around the state to support local and state emergency management officials. Potential missions include high water transportation, debris reduction, commodity distribution, shelter management assistance and search and rescue.

Gov. Ralph Northam authorized up to 6,000 personnel for response operations and officials say they have been alerted and are on standby. Additional personnel will be on duty in Richmond and Fort Pickett to provide mission command, logistics, administrative and public information support.

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11:30 a.m.

All commercial flights have been canceled at the Myrtle Beach International Airport as Hurricane Florence approaches the South Carolina coast.

Airport spokesman Kirk Lovell said in an email that one flight left early Thursday morning and all other flights have been canceled for Thursday and Friday.

He said 84 flights with 12,248 seats were on the schedule for Thursday, with 80 flights with 11,416 seats scheduled for Friday.

Lovell said the airlines will decide when to resume service after Florence makes landfall. Myrtle Beach is served by 10 airlines.

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11:30 a.m.

Hurricane Florence is still the most dangerous of the four tropical storms in the Atlantic.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say Tropical Storm Isaac was speeding into the eastern Caribbean Sea on Thursday after passing between Dominica and Martinique. The poorly organized storm with 45 mph (75 kph) winds was not expected to strengthen.

Helene weakened to a tropical storm while moving north over the open Atlantic. Also over open waters, Subtropical Storm Joyce could transition into a tropical storm over the next couple days.

Forecasters also were watching a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico.

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11:30 a.m.

Gov. Roy Cooper is urging North Carolina residents not to ease up in their preparations for Hurricane Florence, despite southward changes in the storm’s forecast and a decrease in its top sustained wind speeds.

Cooper said at a news conference Thursday morning that he’s concerned because he’s heard some people say North Carolina is “getting a break.”

The governor says the state “cannot underestimate this storm.” Forecasters are warning that Florence will bring surging ocean water, high winds and days of torrential rain.

Cooper says there are currently about 108 shelters open in North Carolina with more than 7,000 people in them. He says emergency management officials plan to open even more.

Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry says an estimated 750 people have packed a megashelter set up at a coliseum in Winston-Salem. Sprayberry says a team is conducting surveys to find other locations for potential megashelters.

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11 a.m.

Hurricane Florence is slowing down as its outer bands of wind and rain lash North Carolina’s barrier islands.

As of 11 a.m., the Category 2 storm was centered about 145 miles (230 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 195 miles (315 kilometers) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Its forward movement slowed to 10 mph (17 kph) and top sustained winds dropped slightly to 105 mph (165 kph).

Still, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says there is nothing “minor” about this hurricane. Water causes the most deaths during tropical storms and hurricanes, and Florence is expected to cause dangerous flooding.

Graham said areas that repeatedly get hit even with weaker winds at Florence’s edges could see heavy rainfall for hours. Storm surge flooding also could push 2 miles (3 kilometers) or more inland if Florence lingers for days along the coast.

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10:45 a.m.

Duke Energy Corp. is shutting down a coastal North Carolina nuclear power plant ahead of Hurricane Florence.

The electricity provider says it began powering down one reactor early Thursday and would start shutting the second reactor later in the day. Florence was projected to reach land Friday near the plant located about five miles from the Atlantic Ocean near Southport.

The Brunswick plant’s two reactors share the same design as those in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Federal regulators later required all U.S. nuclear plants be reinforced against earthquakes and flooding.

Duke Energy did not provide information about specific changes made at Brunswick, other than to say emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater if the plant floods.

___

10:10 a.m.

The long big slosh has begun.

Meteorologists say the leading edge of Florence has arrived in North Carolina, with tropical storm-force winds carrying drenching bands of rainfall onto some beach communities.

Florence will likely bring days of rain totaling three feet or more, and a storm surge of ocean water that rises to more than 12 feet near the center of the storm.

Gov. Roy Cooper says he knows many people are watching the changing storm predictions and categories, and he’s concerned because some are even saying that “North Carolina is getting a break.” It’s not.

“Please hear my message,” he says. “We cannot underestimate this storm.”

Cooper is saying: “Don’t relax; don’t get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill.”

___

9:50 a.m.

Federal emergency officials at a Washington briefing are urging people to treat Hurricane Florence seriously even though its top sustained winds are down to 110 mph (177 kph), which makes it a Category 2 storm.

They say it remains very large and very dangerous, bringing more than 30 inches of rain to the coast and heavy winds that will impact a giant swath of land.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long says storm surge warnings have not changed despite the weakening intensity on the wind scale.

He urged people in the coastal Carolinas and living near inland rivers to evacuate now.

“Please heed the warnings,” Brock says: “Your time is running out.”

___

9:40 a.m.

The police chief of a barrier island in the bull’s-eye of Hurricane Florence is warning any stragglers who refused to evacuate that they are making a dangerous choice.

At a news conference just across the bridge in Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said a handful of residents on the island have refused evacuation orders. He’s telling them they “better go ahead and give me your next of kin” information, because no one will rescue them at the height of the storm.

The police chief says he’s not going to put his people in harm’s way, especially for people they’ve already told to evacuate. The latest forecast shows the eye of Florence could pass directly over the barrier island, pushing a huge surge of ocean water.

___

9 a.m.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warn that Florence remains deadly because of its size and slow forward speed, even if its top sustained winds have dropped it to Category 2 status as a hurricane.

Director Ken Graham says there is nothing “minor” about this hurricane. Water causes the most deaths during tropical storms and hurricanes, and Florence expected to cause dangerous flooding.

Graham said areas that repeatedly get hit even with weaker winds at Florence’s edges could see heavy rainfall for hours. Storm surge flooding also could push 2 miles or more inland if Florence lingers for days along the coast.

Tornadoes also remain a threat, particularly in areas northeast of the hurricane’s eye.

Senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart warns that Florence being a slow hurricane could mean three to four hours of battering, beach-eroding winds for some areas.

___

8 a.m.

The outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence are moving onshore along North Carolina’s barrier islands as the massive storm bears down on the Southeastern coastline.

As of 8 a.m., the Category 2 storm was centered about 170 miles (275 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 220 miles (355 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Its forward movement slowed to 12 mph (19 kph) and top sustained winds stayed at 110 mph (175 kph).

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami don’t expect it to strengthen from a Category 2 hurricane before it moves ashore, but they say the real problem will be water as Florence lingers along the coast through Saturday.

Florence’s hurricane-force winds were blowing 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached up to 195 miles (315 kilometers) from the eye.

_____

7:30 a.m.

The mayor of Myrtle Beach says her city has done as much as it can to prepare for Hurricane Florence.

Brenda Bethune told NBC’s “Today” show Thursday morning that public safety crews have been checking to make sure businesses are secure, and looking for anything that could become a projectile as the winds come ashore.

But the mayor says she knows many people are ignoring evacuation orders. She hopes they’ll stay inside once the winds, rain and floods arrive.

She says people often want to get outside and take pictures. Bad idea, she says because emergency crews won’t be able to reach them in the storm.

___

7:15 a.m.

The Coast Guard says port operations in Charleston, South Carolina, have been stopped as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast.

The Coast Guard said in a news release that the decision to stop port operations at 8 p.m. Wednesday comes because gale force winds of up to 54 mph (87 kph) were possible within 24 hours.

The Coast Guard said ocean-going vessels were told to prepare to leave. Those heading to Charleston were told to find another destination.

The Coast Guard warned pleasure boaters to find safe harbors and noted that drawbridges might not operate once winds reach 25 mph (40 kph).

___

5 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says the outer rain bands of Hurricane Florence are approaching the coast of North Carolina.

Early Thursday the Category 2 was about 205 miles (325 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 250 miles (405 kilometers) east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The gradually slowing but still life-threatening storm is moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph). Little change in strength is expected before the center reaches the coast. Weakening is expected after the center moves inland.

The Miami-based center says the center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and South Carolina later today. It then will move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina in the hurricane warning area later Thursday and Friday.

5 a.m.
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) – The National Hurricane Center says the outer rain bands of Hurricane Florence are approaching the coast of North Carolina.
  
Early Thursday the Category 2 was about 205 miles (325 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 250 miles (405 kilometers) east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The gradually slowing but still life-threatening storm is moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph). Little change in strength is expected before the center reaches the coast. Weakening is expected after the center moves inland.
  
The Miami-based center says the center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and South Carolina later today. It then will move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina in the hurricane warning area later Thursday and Friday.
  
___
  
2 a.m.
  
Monster storm Hurricane Florence is barreling closer to the coast of the Carolinas.
  
Forecasters say wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 mph (225 kph) to 110 mph (175 kph), reducing it to a Category 2 storm. But authorities warn Florence has an enormous wind field as it zeroes in on the Southeast U.S. coast, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely dangerous.
  
Early Thursday Florence was about 235 miles (378 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 280 miles (450 kilometers) east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The storm is moving northwest at 17 mph (27 kph).
  
The National Hurricane Center’s says it expects Florence will blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then slog westward with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding.
  
___
  
11 p.m.
  
Time is running short to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a monster of a storm that has a region of more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights.
  
Forecasters say wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 mph (225 kph) to 110 mph (175 kph), reducing it to a Category 2 storm. But authorities warn Florence has an enormous wind field as it zeroes in on the Southeast U.S. coast, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely dangerous.
  
The National Hurricane Center’s says it expects Florence will blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then slog westward with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

9/13/2018 5:21:43 AM (GMT -4:00)

________________________________________________________________________________

6 p.m.
  
Officials in the Carolinas are closing down ports as Hurricane Florence approaches their coastlines.
  
North Carolina officials said Wednesday that they were closing the Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City to commercial truck traffic on Wednesday. Both facilities will be closed to traffic of any kind starting Thursday.
  
South Carolina State Ports Authority spokeswoman Erin Dhand says the Port of Charleston is closing to container traffic Thursday and may re-open on Sunday, depending on the storm’s track and overall conditions.
  
___
  
6 p.m.
  
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says at least 50 shelters are open across the state as up to 1 million residents have been asked to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence.
  
Cooper spoke at a news conference with emergency management officials Wednesday. He announced that officials were opening a large shelter at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem at 6 p.m. Wednesday with a capacity of at least 1,000.
  
The governor issued an evacuation order for the state’s barrier islands, and local officials have issued some evacuation orders inland as well. Altogether, Cooper says between 750,000 to 1 million residents have been asked to leave their homes.
  
He warned that the coast will “feel the wrath” of Florence starting Thursday morning but said all parts of North Carolina will see some impact. He’s urging people not to wait to evacuate or get prepared.
  
___
  
6 p.m.
  
A law firm is suing three coastal Virginia sheriffs over the decision not to evacuate their local jails as Hurricane Florence approaches.
  
Nexus Derechos Humanos Attorneys filed the lawsuit Wednesday against Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron, Chesapeake Sheriff Jim O’Sullivan and Portsmouth Sheriff Michael Moore.
  
The lawsuit says the sheriffs are refusing to evacuate nearly 2,500 inmates housed in their local jails, which are located in low-lying areas for which the state’s governor has issued an evacuation order. It says the inmates are being placed in “dire straits.”
  
Col. Marvin Waters, undersheriff of the Portsmouth office, said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit because the department hadn’t been notified of it. But he said the jail is well equipped to withstand the storm, with food reserves, generators and medical care on site.
  
A spokesman for the Norfolk office declined comment, and a spokesman for the Chesapeake office couldn’t immediately be reached.
  
___
  
5:40 p.m.
  
Yet another storm has formed in the Atlantic.
  
The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday that Subtropical Storm Joyce has formed in the north Atlantic, but is not currently a threat to land.
  
Joyce is centered about 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) southwest of the Azores and is moving southwest at 6 mph (9 kph).
  
The storm has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) with winds of 40 mph (65 kph) extending outward up to 115 miles (185 kms) from the center.
  
A true tropical storm draws heat energy from the ocean and has a warm core, with its highest winds around the center. A subtropical storm shares some characteristics but has a cooler core, draws energy from the atmosphere and has less-concentrated winds.
  
___
  
4:30 p.m.
  
The National Weather Service says more than 10 million residents in three states are under a storm watch or warning because of Hurricane Florence. There are 5.25 million people under hurricane warnings and watches and another 4.89 million under tropical storm watches and warnings.
  
Hurricane Warnings are in effect from the South Santee River in South Carolina to Duck, North Carolina. A hurricane watch stretches from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to the South Santee River.
  
A tropical storm warning is in effect from Duck, North Carolina, to the North Carolina/Virginia border, with a watch in effect from there to the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
  
___
  
4:20 p.m.
  
Duke Energy says damage from Hurricane Florence could cut off electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and the outages could last for weeks.
  
The country’s No. 2 power company said Wednesday that it’s anticipating 1 million to 3 million homes and businesses could lose power for lengthy periods, depending on the storm’s track.
  
Duke Energy North Carolina President David Fountain said Florence is so massive and its potential for damage so extensive that people could be without power for a very long time. Fountain says most storms are an inconvenience, “but Hurricane Florence will be a life-changing event for many people here in the Carolinas.”
  
The company says it’s already is shifting thousands of power workers from its Midwest and Florida regions and getting added workers from as far away as Texas.
  
___
  
4:20 p.m.
  
North Carolina election officials already delayed in assembling fall ballots due to litigation now are bracing for any additional delays spurred by Hurricane Florence.
  
State elections Executive Director Kim Strach has urged county election boards to prepare for possible flooding by ensuring all voting equipment and files are protected.
  
She also reminded them that printed ballots need to go out to military and absentee voters by Sept. 22. Ballots took longer to finalize this year because of legal battles over ballot wording.
  
Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina in October 2016, unleashing flooding that damaged both early-voting and Election Day polling places. A court delayed voter-registration deadlines to give more time to people displaced by the storm.
  
North Carolina voters will cast ballots this fall for Congress, the legislature, judgeships and six constitutional referendums.
  
___
  
4:20 p.m.
  
About two dozen Kentucky firefighters are heading to North Carolina to help rescue people in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
  
Swift-water search-and-rescue teams from Louisville and Jefferson County left Frankfort shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday. They will stay in Raleigh, North Carolina, while Hurricane Florence makes landfall. After that, they will be deployed to rescue people from anticipated flooding.
  
Kentucky Emergency Management Director Mike Dossett says the state is intentionally deploying firefighters from western Kentucky counties. That’s because the remnants of Hurricane Florence are expected to dump up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain in eastern Kentucky next week, which will likely cause flash flooding. Dossett said the state will be prepared if the storm comes to Kentucky.
  
___
  
3:30 p.m.
  
An official from South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources says officials are concerned about the potential for widespread flooding after Hurricane Florence’s arrival, particularly in the northeastern part of the state.
  
The Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin, which starts near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and flows across the state, culminates in South Carolina’s Winyah Bay, a coastal estuary near Georgetown.
  
Alvin Taylor said Wednesday that the area of concern includes the town of Nichols, a small community that experienced devastating flooding following Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
  
___
  
3:30 p.m.
  
Two major home-supply chains have activated emergency response centers this week to track Hurricane Florence and get supplies to stores before and after the storm.
  
A Home Depot spokeswoman says the company sent about 750 trucks to areas affected by the hurricane, and a Lowe’s spokeswoman said it sent more than 1,000. The supplies include generators, trash bags and bottled water.
  
The companies say they plan to open their stores as soon as possible after the storm, and both are posting updates on store closures on their sites.
  
___
  
3:30 p.m.
  
Home hardware stores are bursting with business as residents in Southern states that could be affected by Hurricane Florence are trying to protect their property.
  
Ace Hardware managers Tom Roberts and Harold Cook said Wednesday that employees were wrapping up five of the busiest days they have ever seen in their store in the tiny village of Calabash, North Carolina.
  
Roberts says the store sold hundreds of gas cans and ran out of generators, but still had bottled water, sand bags and other items.
  
But he says now it’s time for the employees themselves to get their own homes ready.
  
They also need to rest up, Roberts says, because the stores are “going to be just as busy with cleanup once this thing is gone.”
  
___
  
3:30 p.m.
  
North Carolina builders will let tower cranes on construction sites rotate freely in the wind when Hurricane Florence arrives, a move designed to prevent them from being toppled or damaged by heavy wind.
  
Crews started preparing cranes on office building construction sites in Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham earlier this week. Before hurricane-force winds arrive, they’ll disengage the brakes that normally hold a crane’s boom in place, a practice called “weathervaning.”
  
North Carolina-based Heede Construction president Dennis Kenna says a 300-foot (90-meter) tall crane can withstand wind speeds of more than 100 mph (160 kph). Shorter cranes can withstand much higher speeds. Most of Heede’s 30 cranes in North Carolina are less than 300 feet tall.
  
Two cranes collapsed in Miami last year when strong winds from Hurricane Irma struck the city. It’s unclear how fast the winds that brought down the cranes were, but gusts over 90 mph (145 kph) were reported at Miami International Airport.
  
Florence is expected to bring tropical storm-force winds to North Carolina’s inland cities later this week.
  
___
  
3 p.m.
  
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says more than 300,000 people have already evacuated the state’s coasts ahead of Hurricane Florence.
  
McMaster told reporters Wednesday that the storm could bring more rain to the state than 1989’s devastating Hurricane Hugo.
  
McMaster has ordered much of the state’s coastline evacuated, reversing some lanes of a major interstate to direct all traffic inland.
  
Forecasters warned as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) could fall in some portions of the state through at least Monday.
  
The head of the state’s National Guard also says the federal government has positioned aid ships off South Carolina’s coast and they’ll be ready to assist after the storm moves through.
  
___
  
3 p.m.
  
Two of the nation’s largest motor speedways have opened their vast campgrounds to Southerners escaping Hurricane Florence, part of a patchwork of shelters across the region serving as a last refuge for storm evacuees.
  
But gas shortages and jammed freeways loomed for evacuees seeking safety in far-away shelters, campgrounds and hotels. In North Carolina, 1 in 10 gas stations in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham had no gas by midday Wednesday.
  
At Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, personal belongings were spread across an open field where the first few evacuees arrived Wednesday.
  
Melody Rawson left her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, arriving at the Georgia speedway with two dogs and a cockatoo, and a couple of coolers holding some sandwich meat.
  
Bristol Motor Speedway, near the Tennessee-Virginia line, also opened its campgrounds to evacuees.
  
___
  
2:40 p.m.
  
Portions of the Georgia coast face a growing threat of strong winds as Hurricane Florence nears the Southeast coast, but officials there aren’t calling for evacuations.
  
Dennis Jones is director of the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency that includes Savannah. Jones told a news conference Wednesday there’s a “moderate” chance sustained tropical storm winds could reach the area as soon as Thursday evening. He said some storm impacts could last through the weekend.
  
The National Hurricane Center predicts the Category 3 hurricane will strike the Carolinas later this week. But forecasters say there’s a chance the storm could turn to the southwest.
  
Jones said there’s currently no need for evacuations in the Savannah area, but that could change if the forecast worsens. He said there’s a low risk of flooding and storm surge risks are “very low.”
  
(This item has been edited to correct the storm strength to category 3, not category 4).
  
___
  
2:25 p.m.
  
Hurricane Florence has gotten a little bit weaker but it remains a very large and dangerous storm.
  
At 2 p.m., the storm was centered 435 miles (700 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 16 mph (26 kph).
  
It’s a potentially catastrophic Category 3 storm with 125 mph (205 kph) maximum sustained winds.
  
Some fluctuations in strength are expected through Thursday morning. Florence will weaken once it stops drawing energy from warm ocean waters, but it’s still expected to make landfall late Thursday or early Friday as an extremely dangerous major hurricane.
  
The National Hurricane Center says a buoy about 100 miles northeast of Florence’s eye has clocked hurricane-force wind gusts and sustained winds of 53 mph (85 kph).
  
Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.
  
___
  
2:15 p.m.
  
Vice President Mike Pence plans to thank American Red Cross employees and volunteers in Atlanta as they prepare for Hurricane Florence.
  
Pence’s office said in a news release Wednesday that Pence would visit the Delta Air Lines TechOps facility in Atlanta on Thursday, and would later stop by the American Red Cross Disaster Field Supply Center to thank the staff and volunteers.
  
The TechOps facility provides aviation maintenance to Delta and services its fleet.
  
___
  
2 p.m.
  
As motorists try to get away from the path of Hurricane Florence they are learning that some service stations are running out of gasoline.
  
Patrick DeHaan is an analyst for GasBuddy, a service that tracks gasoline prices and outages.
  
DeHaan says there is plenty of gasoline in the region, but getting it from distribution terminals to stations is a challenge.
  
He says the situation is exacerbated because “everyone wants it at the same time.”
  
By midday Wednesday, 5 percent of stations in North Carolina were out, including 10 percent of those in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham. In South Carolina, 2 percent of stations had run out and in Virginia, 1 percent.
  
DeHaan says truck stops and major chains with bigger supply systems are more likely to have gas than small stations.
  
___
  
2 p.m.
  
Some airports in the Carolinas are shutting down as Hurricane Florence approaches, and American Airlines says it’s canceling 565 flights through the weekend.
  
American said Wednesday that it has stopped flying at Greenville, Jacksonville and New Bern, North Carolina, and would shut down Wednesday night in Wilmington and Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Florence, South Carolina.
  
American plans to stop flights in Columbia, South Carolina, and Hampton-Newport News, Virginia, on Thursday evening.
  
Most of the closures will run through Sunday, with a few lifting after Saturday.
  
American says it’s seeing no impact at its big hub in Charlotte, North Carolina, and expects only scattered cancellations through Saturday at Raleigh-Durham.
  
___
  
2 p.m.
  
Forecasters say the U.S. coast won’t see waves generated by Hurricane Florence that are anywhere near as high as the 83-foot (25-meter) giant that was possibly picked up on a satellite.
  
Chris Landsea is chief of tropical analysis and the forecast branch at the National Hurricane Center. He says that when waves and the hurricane move in a straight and similar line, it’s possible to get a wave as big as the image conveyed by the satellite Wednesday.
  
Storms this strong usually generate waves of 40 feet to 50 feet (12 to 15 meters).
  
But Landsea say the waves won’t be anywhere in the same ballpark when they reach shore because they get smaller as the water gets shallower.
  
He also says that there is a chance that radar misinterpreted rain as an 83-foot wave.
  
Florence is such a huge storm that 12-foot (4-meter) seas extend for 345 miles (555 miles) from the storm’s eye.
  
___
  
1:15 p.m.
  
Mississippi is sending National Guard members and search-and-rescue workers to areas affected by Hurricane Florence.
  
Two swift-water rescue teams including local firefighters from 22 communities have gone to Virginia to help with rescue operations in case of flooding.
  
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Greg Michel says Virginia is paying for the deployments under an interstate emergency-assistance compact. The Mississippi Office for Homeland Security says teams arrived Wednesday in the Virginia towns of Dublin and Pulaski.
  
Soldiers based in Meridian, Mississippi, will provide airlift support for relief after the storm using two CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Members of the Mississippi Air National Guard are deploying to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to help with relief planning and coordination.
  
More than 60 people are participating in the deployments.
  
___
  
1:15 p.m.
  
A program that provides health care benefits to military families and retirees is making it easier to get care during evacuations related to Hurricane Florence.
  
The Defense Health Agency announced in a new release on Wednesday that it is waiving referral requirements for TRICARE beneficiaries under mandatory evacuation orders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
  
TRICARE says this means beneficiaries from 40 counties in those states may see a provider in any location without a referral from their primary care provider.
  
The waiver is in effect until Sept. 21. TRICARE says it has about 1.5 million beneficiaries in the Carolinas and Virginia.
  
___
  
12:55 p.m.
  
Georgia’s governor has declared a state of emergency for all 159 counties as forecasters now say Hurricane Florence could take a southwest turn.
  
In a news release Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal says the state “is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence.”
  
Deal’s declaration Wednesday covers comes as the National Weather Service’s storm forecast shows a chance that Florence’s track might turn toward the southwest as it approaches the Carolinas later this week.
  
No storm watches or warnings are in effect for Georgia. But forecasters say there’s an increased chance for tropical storm winds to reach Savannah.
  
Deal’s emergency declaration cited potential “changes in the storm’s trajectory” as well as an influx of evacuees coming to Georgia from the Carolinas. The order eases regulations on trucks hauling gasoline and relief supplies into Georgia.
  
___
  
12:40 p.m.
  
Airlines are starting to cancel more flights as Hurricane Florence approaches the Southeast coast.
  
At midday Wednesday, tracking service FlightAware said more than 400 U.S. flights scheduled for Thursday had been canceled, most of them in the Southeast.
  
In Wilmington, North Carolina, four-fifths of Thursday’s departures have been scrapped. Anywhere from about one-third to more than half of departures have been canceled in Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
  
The numbers are sure to rise as airlines begin cutting flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Airlines typically wait until about 24 hours before takeoff before canceling a flight.
  
Delta Air Lines says it’s adding about 1,000 seats on flights to and from the Southeast for people trying to flee the storm.
  
___
  
12:40 p.m.
  
Virginia has opened two state-managed shelters to assist people evacuating ahead of Hurricane Florence.
  
The shelters at Christopher Newport University in Newport News and at The College of William & Mary Williamsburg opened Wednesday morning.
  
Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said in a statement that they are open to Virginians or residents of other states who have nowhere else to go. No identification or proof of residency is needed to seek shelter.
  
The facilities will provide only basic services, so anyone reporting to one is encouraged to bring supplies including a personal emergency kit, medications and medical equipment.
  
The statement says 24 localities across the state are opening local shelters as well. Cities and counties have been distributing information about those sites through their websites and social media pages.
  
Virginia is under a state of emergency as Florence approaches, and Northam has issued a mandatory evacuation order for around 245,000 people in the state’s lowest-lying coastal areas.
  
___
  
12:40 p.m.
  
Residents of South Carolina who thought they were going to be safe from Hurricane Florence are now rushing to prepare after a slight change in the forecast.
  
Current forecast models have the hurricane shifting south. Previously, North Carolina was forecast to be more at risk.
  
Chris Pennington was boarding up the windows of his Myrtle Beach house late Wednesday morning after noticing that the latest forecast has Florence coming inland nearly over his home.
  
Pennington says he is still leaning toward staying put, but that he’ll keep a really close eye on the weather and leave by Thursday afternoon if necessary.
  
He says one reason for staying is that his wife would be available to help if needed at the local animal hospital where she works.
  
___
  
12:15 p.m.
  
President Donald Trump is urging those in the path of Hurricane Florence to act now to “get out of its way.”
  
Trump is telling residents, “Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one.”
  
The president made his comments in a videotaped message from the Rose Garden that he tweeted out on Wednesday morning.
  
Trump says the federal government and first responders stand ready to assist, but even so, “bad things can happen when you’re talking about a storm this size.”
  
Trump is telling people in the Carolinas and Virginia: “it’s heading your way. … Be ready and God be with you.”
  
___
  
12:15 a.m.
  
The steady shift South that forecasters are expecting for Hurricane Florence has areas once thought to be in the clear worried. In Beaufort County, South Carolina, Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley told residents Wednesday that they need to prepare for the worst –  just in case.
  
Baxley says a direct hit from Florence could bring worse flooding than the state’s great flood of 2015 after 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain fell on parts of the county. The flooding closed several bridges and isolated big parts of the marshy, low lying county.
  
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced evacuations of Beaufort County on Monday, but then rescinded them the next day when forecasts appeared to be sending the storm into North Carolina.
  
___
  
12:15 a.m.
  
Forecasters say conditions are still good for already powerful Hurricane Florence to strengthen a little as it moves over very warm waters.
  
Senior National Hurricane Center specialist Stacy Stewart says as the Category 4 Florence slows down and moves into shallower waters close to shore, the cooler sea temperatures and increasing contact with land will help reduce its strength.
  
But in a forecast discussion on the center’s website Wednesday, Stewart stressed the weaker winds will not diminish hazards from the storm.
  
Stewart says the impacts of the storm will cover a wide area “regardless of exactly where the center of Florence moves.”
  
___
  
11:20 a.m.
  
Federal regulators are reviewing preparations for nuclear plants in the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast.
  
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday said it’s sending additional inspectors to plants in North and South Carolina and is activating its regional incident response center in Atlanta, to provide around-the-clock staff support during the storm.
  
The NRC says Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant south of Wilmington, North Carolina, could face hurricane-force winds, major storm surges and heavy rain.
  
Duke says it has a procedure to begin shutting down plants at least two hours before the arrival of hurricane-force winds. Duke also operates three nuclear plants in South Carolina, though none are on the coast.
  
___
  
11:20 a.m.
  
U.S. Coast Guard crews in Charleston, South Carolina, are making final preparations ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.
  
Capt. John Reed says the Coast Guard is asking people to heed evacuation orders and leave coastal areas. The Coast Guard says mariners shouldn’t go out to sea in recreational boats and should use 911 and not social media to report life-threatening distress.
  
Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered people in coastal areas including Charleston to evacuate the area ahead of the Category 4 storm. Reed says the Coast Guard will work with local officials as soon as it’s safe to assess waterways and help anyone in distress.
  
___
  
11:20 a.m.
  
The mayor of a town outside Charleston, South Carolina, is telling people to “take control of your destiny” and leave town now before Hurricane Florence arrives.
  
Will Haynie is mayor of the Town of Mount Pleasant, just to the east of Charleston, South Carolina. He urged residents on Wednesday to get out of the path of the massive and powerful Category 4 storm, the likes of which he said the area hasn’t seen since 1989’s Hugo.
  
Haynie says local buses in the Charleston area will pick residents up and get them to shelters until 9 p.m. Wednesday.
  
Haynie says residents “can take control of your destiny by getting of the way of this dangerous storm.”
  
___
  
11:20 a.m.
  
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is urging residents in evacuation zones to move to safety, saying the effects of Hurricane Florence are “only hours away.”
  
Cooper spoke at a news conference Wednesday morning with other emergency management officials. The governor said there’s still time for coastal residents to evacuate if their home is at risk and time for others to finish preparing for the storm.
  
Cooper says “disaster is at the doorstep, and it’s coming in.”
  
The governor added that “a lot of people that might normally stay through a hurricane have recognized that this one is different.”
  
Shelters began opening Tuesday and more will open Wednesday.
  
Cooper says state flood plain experts have been modeling the storm’s projected impacts and found that from the storm surge alone, tens of thousands of structures are expected to be flooded.
  
The governor also announced he had activated more National Guard soldiers. Emergency management officials said 3,000 would be on active duty by Wednesday evening, with more on standby.
  
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11:20 a.m.
  
The mayor of a South Carolina city in the projected path of Hurricane Florence says residents need to leave the area as soon as possible.
  
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune told CNN on Wednesday that seeing the storm’s newly projected path toward her city was like “waking up to a sucker punch.”
  
To the city’s roughly 32,000 residents, Bethune says Myrtle Beach “is not a place where you want to be” when the storm arrives.
  
Myrtle Beach is one of the state’s tourism centers. It is among coastal areas under mandatory evacuation orders by Gov. Henry McMaster. Bethune says she’s particularly worried about projected storm surge from the storm, which has slowed down and could linger along South Carolina’s coast, dumping inches (centimeters) of rain.
  
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11:20 a.m.
  
Dozens of airmen are assembling at a New York Air National Guard base on Long Island to prepare for deployment to Southern states in the path of Hurricane Florence.
  
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that 50 members of the 106th Rescue Wing based at Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach are preparing to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. He says elements of the unit will depart as early as Wednesday afternoon to offer assistance along coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
  
The New York Army National Guard is ready to deploy four helicopters to help storm response efforts. The aircraft are based at the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport.
  
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11:05 a.m.
  
Forecasters say Hurricane Florence is generating enormous waves, as high as 83 feet (25 meters) as it makes its way toward the East Coast.
  
The National Hurricane Center says the waves were measured by satellite.
  
The huge waves are being produced because currents are trapped by very strong winds moving in the same direction the storm’s motion. The center’s Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch is tweeting about the phenomenon.
  
The center of the storm is about 485 miles (785 kilometers) out to sea, with tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 175
  
miles (280 kilometers).
  
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11 a.m.
  
Forecasters say Hurricane Florence is expected to steadily slow down as it makes its way toward the East Coast.
  
At 11 a.m., the storm was centered 485 miles (785 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 15 mph (24 kph).
  
It’s a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm with 130 mph (215 kph) maximum sustained winds.
  
Some strengthening is forecast through Wednesday night, drawing energy from the warm water. Its winds could approach Category 5 strength, which means winds of 157 mph (253 kph) or higher.
  
Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac was expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba. Hurricane Helene was expected to weaken over the eastern Atlantic. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.
  
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10:45 a.m.
  
Forecasters said Wednesday that Florence’s wind field is expanding, making it a large, stable hurricane with a clearly defined eye at its center.
  
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warns that a slight shift in Florence’s forecast track does not mean that some communities north of the storm are now in the clear.
  
The “cone of error” in the forecast track only predicts where the storm’s center might go, and even on its edges, winds can push a powerful storm surge into shore dozens of miles from where Florence’s eyewall strikes land.
  
As Graham says, “just because you have a landfall to your south doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods, because the winds are huge around this system.”
  
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10:30 a.m.
  
The Homeland Security Department is pushing back against a Democratic U.S. senator’s claim that the Trump administration transferred nearly $10 million from the government’s disaster relief agency to immigration enforcement.
  
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said the administration was taking money from FEMA’s “response and recovery” to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency at a time when Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Southeast U.S. coast.
  
But DHS officials said the money was transferred from unspent operational accounts for training, office supplies and headquarters costs. That funding cannot be spent on disaster response, they said. FEMA’s annual budget is about $15 billion.
  
Merkley provided no evidence for his suggestion that the money came from hurricane response funds.
  
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9:30 a.m.
  
Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it is imperative locals heed the evacuation warnings.
  
He says the time to flee Hurricane Florence is now. Landfall was expected sometime late Thursday and FEMA officials said Wednesday was the last day for people to get out safely.
  
“Today’s the day,” he said. “It’s time for our citizens to be a part of the team. Heed those warnings and evacuate if you’re in one of the zones.”
  
Byard told a news conference at FEMA headquarters in Washington that the agency has all the resources it needs to react to the natural disaster.
  
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8:55 a.m.
  
The mayor of a South Carolina city in the path of powerful Hurricane Florence is warning citizens to get out or stay “at your own peril.”
  
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg told CNN on Wednesday that the nearly 135,000 residents of his historic coastal city should leave now before the storm arrives later in the week.
  
Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered evacuations in counties along the state’s coast, including Charleston. All lanes of Interstate 26 are westbound to allow more people to leave the coast and head inland toward the state capital of Columbia.
  
Tecklenburg said his flood-prone city is preparing for “copious rain” by clearing out the city’s drainage system and getting boats and portable pumps ready. Many areas in the low-lying city flood with routine rain storms, causing street closures and detours.
  
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8:30 a.m.
  
The National Weather Service says Hurricane Florence “will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast.”
  
That’s saying a lot, given the impacts from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew.
  
Forecasters in Wilmington, North Carolina, are emphasizing the potential for what they’re calling “unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding.”
  
With predicted rainfall measured in feet not inches, forecasters say people living along creeks and rivers in the Carolinas should move to higher ground well ahead of the storm’s arrival.
 

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