The US east coast girded for a battering from Hurricane Florence late Thursday as the monster storm's outer edge began lashing the Carolinas with heavy wind and rain, which forecasters warned could trigger life-threatening floods even as it further weakened.
Hurricane Florence is predicted to creep across the coast from North Carolina to SC, drenching a wide area after making landfall late Thursday or early Friday.
We are holding out hope for all of those who are in the path of the storm, but for any of you who aren't convinced that Florence has the potential to be deadly, then look no further than this live streaming video from the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, where the sky has darkened and the waves are crashing violently.
More than one million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of North and SC and Virginia and thousands moved to emergency shelters, officials said. And even though meteorologists sort storms into categories by the strength of their winds, it's actually the storm surge that's most risky, as AccuWeather reported. The winds had been as high as 225kmh earlier in the week. Anyone in an evacuation zone in the Carolinas and Virginia must leave NOW if they haven't yet.
Still, a storm surge can overwhelm the animals, as it did in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel killed five horses and swept three others a few miles away. "Today the threat becomes a reality".
Don't relax, don't get complacent. "This may be worse than what we've seen before", Assistant Fire Chief Joey Roberts said during a press conference Wednesday. "I am frightened about what's coming".
But the storm still carried "very risky winds", the Center added.
Some 11,000 power outages have been reported in North Carolina.
The damage from the storm is also cumulative over time, as it slowly moves inland, damaging homes and buildings, blowing trees over, and knocking down power lines.
Warning of looming storm surges of nine to 12 feet (2.7-3.6 meters), he urged residents to take the storm seriously no matter the category, saying "this is all about the water anyway".
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico past year.
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths". When fierce winds keep up for a long time, homes are "going to start to deteriorate".
Trump provided no evidence to support his challenge on Maria. Florence has weakened a bit over the past 24 hours, but it has also grown larger and will likely dump torrential rain over North and SC through Monday.