Unseasonable warmth, snow and hurricane Florence

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Heavy rainbands along with tropical storm-force winds are spreading across the outer banks and coastal southeastern North Carolina, the NHC said on Thursday.

That reduced the winds' destructive power from Category 4 to Category 2, but forecasters warned that the widening storm, and its likelihood of lingering along the coast day after day after day, raises the risk of surging ocean water and torrential rain. The Saffir-Simpson scale that meteorologists use to measure hurricanes reflects only the wind speeds involved in the storm, and right now Hurricane Florence's winds are hovering at maximum speeds of about 110 miles per hour (175 km/h). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

The center of Florence is expected to approach the coasts of the Carolinas today and move over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern SC tonight and Friday.

Businesses and homes in the storm's path were boarded up and thousands of people had moved to emergency shelters, officials said, urging anyone who remained near the coast to flee.

Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Florence's forward motion had slowed overnight and it was not expected to make landfall in the Carolinas until "sometime Friday afternoon, Friday evening or Saturday morning".

The centre said the storm would dump as much as 40 inches (102 cm) of rain along coastal areas of the Carolinas, as well as up to 10 inches in southwestern Virginia.

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Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.

-Get out: 1.7 million people under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders, and more than 10 million people live in places now under storm watches or warnings.

Members of law enforcement work with the National Guard to direct traffic onto US Highway 501 as Hurricane Florence approaches the US east coast.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage. Parts of eastern North Carolina and SC could see up to 20 inches of rain, in addition to storm surge.

"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate", Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said. "Don't play games with it". More than one million people had been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia.

The two hardware chains said they sent a total of around 1,100 trucks.

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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.

"I think people should listen when he says to leave because this is going to be a bad storm", Clower said.

"It's getting late to evacuate", said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.

Hurricane Florence has started to hit the North Carolina coast.

Computer models of exactly what the storm might do varied, adding to the uncertainty.

The offer comes as Mr. Trump comes under bipartisan criticism for denying almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria.

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Hurricane Florence weakened from a Category 4 down to a Category 2 storm Wednesday night but the massive system is still considered extremely risky and life threatening.

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