Hurricane Florence's Path Remains Uncertain As Storm Closes In On Carolinas

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Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as merely a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.

Florence is forecast to make landfall near southeast North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane early Friday morning, "bringing extreme wind and sea conditions" reminiscent of a much stronger storm, meteorologists said. "Heed those warnings and evacuate if you're in one of the zones".

Although its peak winds diminished, forecasters said the storm's total energy grew as its inner core and outlying bands of wind expanded.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Greg Michel says Virginia is paying for the deployments under an interstate emergency assistance compact. The order eases regulations on trucks hauling gasoline and relief supplies into Georgia.

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- 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 as it zeroes in on the Southeastern coast. Upon its arrival, the National Hurricane Center projects that Florence could drop anywhere from 20-40 inches of rain along the Carolina coast.

The NHC has issued Hurricane Warnings from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina.

Its maximum sustained winds slackened slightly to 125 mph, qualifying it as a Category 3 storm, but its wind field has grown, with hurricane-force winds extending out 70 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds stretching as far as 175 miles from the storm's center.

Hurricane Florence is now expected to head more directly west after making landfall, crossing through SC. "With time, the wind pushes the water into every nook and cranny you can think of", Graham said.

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The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports. The entire coastlines of North and SC, in addition to some parts of southeastern Virginia, are under a mandatory evacuation plan.

Maryland, though, could be spared the catastrophic flooding thought possible in recent days.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte. He cited forecasts showing Florence was likely to stall over North Carolina, "bringing days and days of rain".

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