More than 188,000 without power as Florence batters Carolinas

About 70 occupants have been evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina after hurricane force winds threatened its the structural integrity.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to Category 2 storm on Thursday, but forecasters cautioned that the mammoth storm still poses a major threat to millions of people.

Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach around 7:15 a.m. Friday as a Category 1 storm. The hurricane is now 235 miles ESE of Wilmington, North Carolina and is moving toward the northwest at 17 mph. We spoke to those braced for Florence's looming arrival.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated as Hurricane Florence closes in on North Carolina's coast with "life-threatening" winds. "Total innundation" is expected in eastern and southeastern North Carolina, as well as northern Southern California, and the storm surge could reach in "excess of 3.05m in some areas", Accuweather added.

The Outer Banks will start to see Tropical-Storm-Force winds later this morning with winds gradually picking up speed in coastal Virginia.

From the first rains now creeping on the coast to the outer bands, #Florence is now over 600 miles wide.

According to NHC: "A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours".

Cheryl Browning lives with her husband and son, who has terminal cancer, in Richlands, North Carolina.

Radar showed maximum sustained winds at 90 miles per hour, with higher gusts. In coastal North Carolina, this could be 20 to 30 inches, isolated up to 40 inches in some areas, which could lead to catastrophic flooding. "It's important for people to know this is no ordinary storm and customers could be without power for a very long time - not days, but weeks".

But it will be the rain and flash flooding that likely will have the most devastating impact, officials said. "Don't plan to leave once the winds and rains start". "It was located farther north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we're forecasting is unprecedented", Moss said. Hurricane-force winds are expected to spread to parts of the coast Friday. The strong winds will last into Saturday. Heavy rains are expected to move in late Saturday night through Monday. That reduced Florence from a Category 4 to a Category 2 hurricane, but forecasters warned that the widening storm - and its likelihood of lingering around the coast day after day after day - will bring surging ocean water and torrential rain. A slow motion over eastern SC is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.

By 5 a.m. today, the storm was about 205 miles east/southeast of Wilmington, N.C. with 110-mph maximum sustained winds.

Invest 95L, which is the National Hurricane Center designation for the system we are watching in the central Gulf of Mexico, may organize into at least a tropical depression before impacting the western Gulf coast from Mexico through Texas to Louisiana by Friday. Visit our sister site Live Science for the latest Hurricane Florence forecast.

  • Carolyn Briggs