Space Station astronaut captures mammoth Hurricane Florence from directly above

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The US National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Florence maximum sustained winds were 115 miles per hour as any other regular Category 3 storm, on Wednesday at 8 PM EDT.

The National Hurricane Center listed the massive storm moving west-northwest at 17 miles per hour with winds about 130 miles per hour, and expected to reach the coast Thursday night to Friday morning, The News & Observer reported.

Florence is now a Category 4 storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale and is forecast to slam into the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday.

Florence, a category 4 hurricane, is now moving in a west-northwesterly direction at 17mph.

As with most hurricanes, one of the difficulties of evacuating those in harm's way is dealing with the elderly, especially those in nursing homes.

Jeff Byard, FEMA associate administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery, called Florence "a very unsafe storm". REUTERS/Randall HillDennis Kernodle talks on the phone during storm preparations of his oceanfront home ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, U.S. September 12, 2018.

Beaufort County Emergency Management Division commander Neil Baxley said at an 11:30 a.m. press conference that the National Weather Service alerted him that the earliest reasonable time that Beaufort County could start seeing early storm conditions is "sometime around mid-day" Thursday.

"The big picture: There are several characteristics of the changing climate that are helping to increase the risks of damage from Hurricane Florence, even though global warming is not directly causing such a storm to spin up".

Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean as it threatens the US East Coast
AP Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean as it threatens the US East Coast

Two of the most destructive hurricanes in USA history, Sandy in 2012 and Harvey a year ago, were influenced by similar forces, though neither by both, said Jennifer Francis, a research professor at New Jersey's Rutgers University.

In neighbouring Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said his state was readying for potentially "historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening flooding, and high winds".

Briefing from the Oval Office, President Donald Trump urged people to heed orders to evacuate, saying "if you are asked to leave, get out". More than 1 million people in coastal communities in North and SC and Virginia are under mandatory evacuations, with major coastal roads scheduled to be closed today, September 12 at noon EST.

"This one really scares me", Graham said.

As Florence closes in on the U.S. East Coast, its track has shifted slightly to the south, threatening to batter a wide swath of coastline as it makes landfall near Myrtle Beach.

Experts predict that the storm could bring rainfall up to 40 inches and up to 13 feet of floodwater in some areas. Nineteen people died in North Carolina and an estimated 15,000 buildings were destroyed.

A hurricane-hunter airplane measured 25-metre waves near the eye of Florence, according to a tweet from the National Hurricane Center.

Florence is predicted to turn more toward the northwest through Thursday - but then is expected to head more west-northwest and stall a bit over the Carolinas. "Certainly businesses that take a direct hit, their facilities could be impacted for months".

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In New Bern, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000. More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centers were moved out of the storm's path.

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