"Once In A Lifetime" Hurricane Florence Weakens, Begins Lashing Eastern US

Hurricane Florence has weakened but will still be devastating

Hurricane Florence has weakened but will still be devastating

Even though the storm may weaken to a Category 1 or Category 2 storm, widespread damage is expected.

The outer reaches of Hurricane Florence began lashing coastal North Carolina with heavy winds and flooded roads on Thursday ahead of an expected landfall that will bring walls of water and lingering downpours to parts of the US East Coast.

Folks in Charleston, South Carolina, who have chosen not to evacuate, are preparing for a nasty storm that could make landfall right in their backyard.

But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

Perched on the porch of his home, carpenter Tony Albright was calmly awaiting Florence's arrival, beer in hand.

"We've prepared all our supplies at home and frankly, we were bored".

"If you find yourself here [in rising floodwaters], you need to get out", she said.

Elsewhere in Wilmington, Linda Smith, a 67-year-old retired nonprofit director, was concerned as she watched wind gusts stir up frothy white caps on the Cape Fear River. "I am frightened about what's coming".

"Either no (hotel) rooms are available, or we are denied because the breed or size of dogs", she said.

Like many other officials in the storm's path, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said no one will be able to save at-risk residents if they choose to ride out the storm.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

Winds were already picking up along the coastline early Thursday and some minor flooding was reported on the Outer Banks, barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, and in some seaside coastal towns.

Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet (4m) have been forecast in some areas when the monster storm eventually makes landfall in North and SC.

A gauge in the city of 30,000 people showed the Neuse River was recording 9.6 feet of inundation, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

According to the NHC's forecast discussion at 12 p.m. on September 13: "The subtropical ridge to the northeast and east of Florence is now well-established between Bermuda and the USA mid-Atlantic region and extends westward into Virginia and the central Appalachians".

The massive storm is larger than North Carolina and South Carolina - combined, according to South Carolina Emergency Management.

Despite pleas from state and local officials, some residents rejected calls to evacuate. "The anxiety level has dropped substantially", Epperson said.

Instead, they drove 240km inland to his mother's house in Durham.

"I've never been one to leave for a storm but this one kind of had me spooked", Epperson said.

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