Projected Path Still Uncertain as Florence Moves Toward Carolinas

Hurricane Florence weakened into a Category 2 hurricane as it moved towards east coast of the United States, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said on Wednesday, but a life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall were still expected.

Winds and rain were arriving later in SC, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Florence was 435 miles from Wilmington, N.C., moving northwest at 16 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and the National Hurricane Center fears the storm "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and unsafe rainfall event Friday-Sunday".

A view of Hurricane Florence is shown churning in the Atlantic Ocean in a west, north-westerly direction heading for the eastern coastline of the United States, taken by cameras outside the International Space Station on Wednesday.

Generally, the red region is where I believe tropical storm-force winds (or gusts) and/or flooding will occur.

Florence was downgraded Wednesday to a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. However, while the hurricane hasn't strengthened in terms of peak winds, the inner-core and outer wind fields have continued to expand, resulting in an increase the cyclone's total energy, which will create a significant storm surge event.

Similar declarations were made earlier in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The message from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to residents was bleak.

While hurricane forecast cones are usually right, National Hurricane Center meteorologist Joel Cline says there is just no way to pinpoint the exact location of landfall with any certainty. A NOAA buoy located about 100 miles northeast of Florence's eye recently reported a sustained wind of 53 mph (85 km/h) and a gust to 74 mph (119 km/h).

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm approached, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.

"Disaster is at the doorstep and it's coming in."
Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.

Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.

"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said.