Hurricane Florences winds and rain begin lashing Carolinas

A close-up view of the eye of Hurricane Florence

Another video from NOAA's GOES-East weather satellite caught a different view of Hurricane Florence. NASA/Handout via REUTERS " Pray for Wilmington" is seen on boarded up windows ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 12, 2018.

Meanwhile, lane reversals on USA 501 ended at noon and reversals on I-26 end Thursday night, allowing state police and transportation workers to get to a safe location before the storm hits.

This same zone will be hammered by winds gusting up to hurricane force for almost a day while tropical-storm conditions could linger twice that long.

In Hampton Roads, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Poquoson to the Virginia-North Carolina border, including the lower James and York rivers.

Hurricane Helene is moving north, where it's expected to become a tropical storm on Thursday.

The hurricane centre's best guess was that Florence's eye would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon (Saturday NZT) around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.

The storm will slow down because of pushback from a trough - an extended area of low atmospheric pressure - now over Texas, Stacy Stewart, an NHC senior hurricane specialist, said in the update.

"These enormous waves are produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction [of] the storm's motion", the agency said.

The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's center reaching the coast Friday. And if local officials recommend evacuation, evacuate immediately. "This is a life-and-death situation".

The wave action and strong winds of Florence will cause a large amount of water to pile up along the coast of North and SC.

The massive storm is larger than North Carolina and South Carolina - combined, according to South Carolina Emergency Management. "We just need to figure out how to make it through".

Faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes.

Hurricane Florence put a corridor of more than 10 million people in the crosshairs Wednesday as the monster storm closed in on the Carolinas, uncertainty over its projected path spreading worry across a widening swath of the Southeast.

As it approached the USA on Wednesday, the International Space Station (ISS) recorded some startling footage.

"We're on the wrong side of this thing", he said.

In South Carolina, traffic along parts of Interstate 26 and United States 501 has been directed away from the coast.

That said, the storm is still expected to stall once it hits the Wilmington coast, with weather officials early Thursday raising the expected total rainfall for Wilmington to 35 inches - weather officials had predicted 30 inches for Wilmington in briefings released Wednesday.

He said: "We are ready but this is going to be one of the biggest ones to ever hit our country". "I mean this takes a long time to move through the Carolinas".

The community of Avon on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands reported wind gusts of 74 miles per hour (119 km per hour), while Morehead City on the mainland coast had received 3.6 inches (9.1 cm) of rain in the past 13 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

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