Businesses across the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia will likely suffer financial losses from the approaching storm, with ports closing, farmers moving their livestock and expected power outages that could last for weeks. And that's just the prelude to untold days of misery.
UPDATE 5 p.m.: Hurricane Florence's forward speed has slowed to 5 miles per hour as it approaches the Carolinas as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 miles per hour winds.
Meanwhile, winds and rain were expected to arrive later in SC, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded.
"I'm not going to put our personnel in harm's way, especially for people that we've already told to evacuate, " Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said.
NHC Director Ken Graham said on Facebook the storm surges could push in as far as 2 miles (3 km). Wind gusts from Florence could reach tropical storm force (39+ mph), while sustained winds are expected to be in the 20-30 miles per hour range.
Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with weathermodels.com, warns that up to 10 trillion gallons of rain could fall on North Carolina from Florence. That's enough to fill more than 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
"It's cumulative damage", Myers said. Yes, Florence has weakened a bit, but I wouldn't spend too much time focusing on that. So will the trees. An extended period of tropical storm force winds is also possible across portions of the area. "If the storm continues its path inland, we could see disruption at (Atlanta) Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport".
As many as 1.5 million people are believed to live within mandatory evacuation zones.
"We know that this is an extremely risky situation", Cooper told "CBS This Morning" on Thursday.
The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.
Remainder of SC and North Carolina into southwest Virginia...6 to 12 inches, isolated 15 inches. The governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia declared emergencies to help speed up government aid efforts. The center is now about 100 miles from North Carolina. The water can reach up to 9 feet in some areas during high tide.
Beaches throughout the region will see storm surges as high as 12 feet, with the surge expected to cause structural damage to buildings in many areas, with homes on barrier islands washed away entirely.
Jeff Byard, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said: "This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast". "Flooding is nearly guaranteed". One North Carolina woman packed flowers to leave on her son's grave. She packed up what she could and took a ferry.
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The image was captured by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, now living and working onboard the International Space Station. "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".
There are now four named storms in the Atlantic basin with subtropical storm Joyce named Wednesday, and two areas of disturbed weather with chances of development. Forecasters predict it will make landfall between Thursday and Friday. Recall that Hurricane Ike was a similar Category 2 when it came ashore near Houston 10 years ago, with catastrophic results in unprotected coastal communities. But authorities warned Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely risky.