Outer bands from the hurricane were lashing land on Thursday, at least a full day before the National Hurricane Center expects the slow-moving storm's eye to blow ashore around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.
Florence is expected to make landfall late Thursday or early Friday (Sept. 13 or 14), likely as a Category 3 hurricane, meaning it will have winds blowing at a minimum of 111 miles per hour (178 km/h), Samson said. A slow motion over eastern SC is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.
Despite new projections that the storm is likely to pause over North Carolina and move southward, MVP spokesperson Natalie Cox said all efforts remain focused on preparation.
Massive waves of up to 83 feet were measured inside the storm on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center's Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch said, citing satellite altimeter data.
Gerst photographed the storm 400 kilometers, or 248 miles, above the eye.
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Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive rainfall, with coastal North Carolina expected to see 20-30 inches and in some isolated places, up to 40 inches.
Florence is following a similar sort of path hurricanes as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and Hurricane Hugo in the Caribbean and southeastern U.S.in 1989, he said.
Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, which decimated parts of the Gulf states and Texas in 2005 and 2017 respectively, cost more than $125 billion. That means more impervious surfaces - such as roads and rooftops - and less area for the floodwaters to go.
"We are already experiencing heavily impacted traffic on some of the evacuation routes", said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"The problem is our high, that's making a beeline towards the coast is going to break down".
The blasting wind and surging water may also damage some of the 16 nuclear reactors located in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Trinidadians in the Carolinas prepare for Hurricane Florence
Storm surge flooding also could push 2 miles or more inland if Florence lingers for days along the coast. Early Thursday footage showed stormy seas and dark skies, with an American flag whipping in the wind.
And it led to mixed signals from officials in SC, whose governor had canceled mandatory evacuation for several coastal counties.
On Wednesday morning, the president urged those in the path of Florence to "get out of its way".
"Don't play games with it".
"We'll handle it. We're ready, we're able, we've got the finest people I think anywhere in the world".
This contrasts with other storms, such as Harvey, which sat for days over Houston and dumped more than 51 inches of rain, killing 82 people past year.
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The Security Council has to agree by consensus on whether to publish the report and the United States objected to releasing the amended document.