Hurricane Florence could cause unsafe floods of toxic sludge and animal waste

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"On the forecast track, the center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and SC later tonight, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern SC in the hurricane warning area on Friday", the briefing said.

The storm was downgraded from a category 4 on Thursday to a category 2, but its massive size (about 400 miles wide) and the storm surge it is bringing with it was expected to hammer the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and perhaps even Georgia. Here's why this storm threatens not only the coast but millions of people inland. The center of the storm is expected to make landfall near Wilmington between 8 a.m. and noon.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.

O'Shaughnessy, head of US Northern Command, said search and rescue would be a top priority, but weather may prevent rescuers from getting in during the hours immediately after the storm hits.

A hurricane warning is in effect for a big chunk of the Carolina coast, from the South Santee River below Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Duck, N.C. - part of the Outer Banks.

The center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Wednesday night, and approach the coast of North Carolina or SC in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday, NHC said.

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"It will be historic", Baker said of the rain from Florence.

There have reportedly been 800-plus flights canceled as a result of Hurricane Florence.

Florence is about 644 kilometres wide and it's winds have dropped from a peak of 225 km/h to 165 km/h, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a Category 2.

"It's going to coming roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say 'I'm not sure I really want to do this and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground. "If they're telling you to leave, you have to leave", Graham said.

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.

People look out over the surf before Hurricane Florence comes ashore on Carolina Beach, North Carolina, Sept. 13, 2018.

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That amount of storm surge would put Florence on par with Hurricane Fran.

Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic.

The storm was a unsafe Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Thursday.

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New Hanover County officials said Thursday morning that it could accept more residents seeking shelter at Trask Middle School, Eaton Elementary School, Codington Elementary School, the Johnson Pre-K Center and Noble Middle School.

Further south, just north of South America, is where you'll find Tropical Storm Isaac, a system packing maximum winds of around 65 km/h.

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"The magnitude of the storm is beyond what we have seen in years", said Howard Fowler, Duke Energy's incident commander.

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