Florence weakens to Category 2 hurricane but still life-threatening: NHC

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Hurricane Florence churned across the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday packing winds of 130 miles per hour (215 kph) as an emergency management official warned the monster storm would deliver a "Mike Tyson punch" to the Carolina coast.

SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of 1 million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination.

"Little change in strength is expected before the center reaches the coast, with weakening expected after the center moves inland", the National Hurricane Center said.

ESRI created a tracker to estimate just how many people would be affected by the storm's path given key demographic data from the area inside the error cone.

The centre of Florence, no longer classified as a major hurricane but still posing a grave threat to life and property, is expected to strike North Carolina's southern coast on Friday, then drift south-west along the shoreline before moving inland on Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami.

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

NOAA's Hurricane Hunters are created to tell us more about storms like these.

While a third added: 'Looks like a hard pounding... they are really going more than a few inches.

Hurricane Helene is moving north, where it's expected to become a tropical storm on Thursday.

Early Thursday the Category 2 was about 205 miles (325 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 250 miles (405 kilometers) east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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This morning, the radar loop out of Morehead North Carolina is beginning to show those fans of heavy rain closing in on the coast.

Despite the drop in maximum sustained winds, forecasters stress that this hurricane is not to be taken lightly. Thousands of Marines and their families evacuated from Camp Lejeune, leaving the rest to dig in ahead of what could be a direct hit. Officials are urging others in its path to follow suit, or prepare for the worst.

"Been through it!" Belli said, referring to Hurricane Hugo, which caused widespread damage in SC in 1989.

Up to 1.7 million people are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and coastal residents were frantically boarding up homes and businesses and hitting the road on Wednesday as the storm approached.

Forecasters say Florence will likely turn to the west-northwest and west and slow down its forward motion - a situation that will bring even more rainfall to the area.

In addition to inundating the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 4 metres along the Carolina coast, Florence could dump 51-76 cm of rain, with up to 102 cm in parts of North Carolina, the NHC said.

BMW of North America has a plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, almost 300 miles (483 km) inland from the life-threatening hurricane's projected point of landfall on Friday, and automobile shipments were diverted.

"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", the governor told reporters.

"The Cone of Uncertainty.represents the probable track of the center of a tropical cyclone, and is formed by enclosing the area swept out by a set of circles along the forecast track (at 12, 24, 36 hours, etc)", the ESRI team explained.

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