Already, the outer rain bands are slamming portions of eastern and central North Carolina.
"I'm not anxious at all", said Richard Ford, 34, smoking a cigarette outside one of Wilmington's five shelters. Rearranging processing schedules to get birds out of the field early, topping up feed bins, talking to growers making sure all emergency generators are operating and plenty of fuel to run them in case of power outages.
Garden City Fire District Chief Norman Knight told Murrells Inlet residents on Thursday that it was still not too late to leave. "Now is the time to get yourself to a safe place and stay there". One moment, it's going to be real bad; next moment, it's slowing down.
"The threat of freshwater flooding will increase and spread inland over the next several days".
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With South Carolina's beach towns more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand. Millions of people were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks. "Today the threat becomes a reality", he said. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
Ken Graham, NHC director, said on Facebook the storm surges could push in as far as two miles.
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago. In some counties, almost 1 in 3 people live below the poverty line.
Nationwide more than 1,000 flights were cancelled as Florence is expected to hover over the Carolinas, bringing near non-stop rain for days.
"That's what we're here to do help get the power get back on and see the smiles when the lights turn on", Hernandez said. "Because it's Mother Nature".
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Chef José Andrés, whose charity fed thousands on the island in the aftermath of the storm , said Trump is "the face of no shame". People online were aghast that the president would somehow blame Democrats for an accurate death toll being reported.
The tropical cyclone is expected to unload 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina, weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times. Along the coast, fewer homes have flood insurance than five years ago.
"We've got the largest workforce we've ever had before a hurricane and the size of Florence looks like we'll need it", Randy Wheeless with Duke Energy said.
Nearly two-thirds of the reported outages originated in Carteret County, along the coast about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.
As winds and rain picked up during the day and conditions quickly deteriorated, thousands of people moved into emergency shelters to ride out what officials have called "the storm of a lifetime".
Is global warming to blame?But previous research has shown that the strongest hurricanes are getting wetter, more intense and intensifying faster because of human-caused climate change.
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An estimated 10 million people live in the storm's path, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center, and coastal businesses and homes were boarded up in anticipation.