Hurricane Florence Charleston: Latest Forecast & Track

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It was located 85 miles from Wilmington at 8 p.m. Thursday and its eye was expected to make landfall Friday, the advisory said.

Florence, though downgraded to a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, remained unsafe and unpredictable, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Florence could bring wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 13 feet (4 meters) and NHC Director Ken Graham said on Facebook they could push in as far as 2 miles (3 km).

But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster. The top wind gusts were reported in Raleigh are at 39 miles per hour.

"We have prepared everything", he says, "to have enough food, water, batteries, radio, first-aid supplies, and everything we need to be safe".

"Today was my day to come home, I'm so glad it wasn't Friday 'cause I don't know if I'd have gotten out of town", said Beverly Stasko. "We just want prayers from everyone".

The storm will churn very slowly Friday and Saturday, extending the damaging winds and huge amounts of rain that will hit the same areas of North and SC for 24 hours.

The head of Duke Energy Corp.'s North Carolina operations says it could take weeks to restore electricity if the company's prediction that 1 million to 3 million of its 4 million customers lose power.

Roads and intersections on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands were already inundated with water.

Florence's winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 225 kph earlier in the week, and the hurricane was downgraded from a terrifying category four to a two.

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In the 5 a.m. ET advisory, Florence was 205 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, NC, packing maximum-sustained winds of 110 mph and moving to the northwest at 15 mph.

About one million seven hundred thousand people have been ordered to evacuate on the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

The Charleston area will see winds near tropical storm strength of 40 miles per hour and somewhere between 3 to 6 inches of rain.

Storm surges are caused when huge volumes of water are pushed by hurricane-force winds.

Qlik analyzed branch data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and compared it with the National Weather Service's storm-path forecast and the probabilities that certain areas would see tropical storm-force winds.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state. "I should stay in my house, where I have water and food". It had long lines on Thursday.

"The storm sort of made me run a little faster, I live there in Charlotte and things are not going to be too good", said Dougherty.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

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

Because most are managed as wild animals, numerous horses will be left to fend for themselves, said Paula Gillikin of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve.

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