Airlines begin canceling flights at RDU as Hurricane Florence nears the Carolinas

Airlines begin canceling flights at RDU as Hurricane Florence nears the Carolinas

The center of Florence, a Category 2 hurricane, will approach the coasts of North and SC on Thursday, the NHC said, adding that it was expected to weaken after it moved inland. The hurricane was moving northwest in the Atlantic at 15 miles per hour and was packing sustained winds of 110 miles per hour.

The slow-moving storm, with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, is expected. Florence is now heading for ocean water with surface temperatures of around 85 degrees, meaning it will likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.

A long stretch of the US Eastern Seaboard remained vulnerable to hurricane and tropical storm conditions, from Georgia north through the Carolinas into Virginia. The D.C. region can expect a few inches of rain and coastal areas may experience minor flooding issues.

"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference. "Disaster is at the doorstep and it's coming in".

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Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. "I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas".

The threat has sparked a rush of evacuation efforts in SC and North Carolina, with more than a million people urged to get out of Florence's way.

Governor Cooper warned that North Carolina is on the "wrong side of the storm", and poses a serious threat despite being downgraded to a Category 3 storm on Wednesday.

A state of emergency has also been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.

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By late last night, authorities in North Carolina reported almost 7,000 evacuees staying in 71 emergency shelters throughout the state.

"We could maybe get some outer bands or very, very outer bands of the hurricane", said Jeremy Geiger, a weather service meteorologist. "This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast".

Steady streams of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland Tuesday as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone on North Carolina's coast to flee.

Officials in New Hanover County, which includes Wilmington, have stockpiled enough food and water for 60,000 people for four days, along with more than 28,000 tarps. Authorities in Chatham County, Georgia, which borders SC and includes the historic port city of Savannah, urged residents who feel unsafe "to evacuate as they see fit".

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It has Hanover County Commissioner Woody White very anxious.

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