The winds had been as high as 140 miles per hour earlier in the week when the storm had rated as a Category 4 major storm, but North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned against complacency because of the drop.
"Don't relax; don't get complacent". At least five people were killed. "Now is the time to get yourself to a safe place and stay there". Waterkeepers, a watchdog group, said it plans to take airplane and boat trips near flooded industrial sites and gather water samples. Evacuees also loaded up their vehicles with extra gas cans, their pets, coolers filled with sandwich meat, family photographs and blankets. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire. Shelter locations are listed at ncdps.gov/florence and, once open, will be listed on the ReadyNC app. The couple said they would have had to travel too far inland to find a hotel that would have accepted their animals as guests. Dial 2-1-1 or 888-892-1162, or text Florence to 898211.
Flooding from heavy rains is the second-leading cause of fatalities in tropical storms and hurricanes that make landfall.
The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
Atlantic Beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks islands had already received 30 inches of rain, the U.S. Geological Survey said, while more than 25 inches have fallen in the Newport, Morehead City area since Thursday.
Because the storm will slow it moves over the eastern Carolinas, these wind impacts will be magnified. Extreme beach erosion with significant loss of dunes and the potential for the creation of new inlets on barrier islands is possible.
The strongest winds will occur where and when the storm makes landfall in a ring around the calm eye of the storm known as the eyewall. One North Carolina woman packed flowers to leave on her son's grave.
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Maximum sustained winds Friday morning were near 35 miles per hour with higher gusts. A unsafe Hurricane Florence is steadily making its way to the U.S.
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Hurricane Florence's winds began whipping coastal North Carolina on Thursday as the slow-moving tempest began to unleash fierce rains that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the USA southeast.
"Floodwaters may enter numerous structures, and some may become uninhabitable or washed away", the Weather Service warned.
"Honestly, I'm not sure" why some people refused to follow evacuation orders, David Cotton, county manager for North Carolina's Onslow County, told "Good Morning America" on Saturday.
Even though the storm's category fell from a 4 to a 2 Wednesday, forecasters stressed the category is only an evaluation of the storm's peak winds in a very narrow core near the center of the storm. The high winds will likely snap or uproot numerous trees. "Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks".
Governor Cooper has activated more than 2,800 National Guard soldiers to preserve life and safety, provide route clearance of roads, and support communications and logistics. So far, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and the Washington D.C. have all declared states of emergencies. Additional emergency personnel from 13 states have arrived in North Carolina to assist with the storm, including swift water rescue teams, emergency medical personnel, and others. As of Thursday, almost a dozen airports have shut down, with more than 1,000 flights being canceled.
All NC state parks are already closed or will close today and will remain closed through Sunday.
The storm could track north through the Ohio Valley, the Appalachians or even closer to the Interstate 95 corridor. For the full list of closings, visit the DNCR website.