Tracking Hurricane Florence as it takes aim at Southeast

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Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and SC and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall by early Friday, bringing a storm surge as much as 13 feet (4 meters).

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".

The storm's maximum sustained winds were clocked on Wednesday at 185 km per hour, down from a peak of 225 km per hour a day earlier before Florence was downgraded from a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of wind strength. "We're trying to get those last stragglers off of the barrier islands".

Florence is headed straight for some of the most well-known military bases in the country.

Once the rain hits the coast, it will accumulate very quickly, causing some flash flooding and eventually likely overwhelming streams and rivers in the areas that get the most. "It's a big one", he said.

"It's going to coming roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say 'I'm not sure I really want to do this and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground.

"Hurricane Florence is the strongest storm to target the Carolinas and this part of our country in decades".

"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said.

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As of 5 a.m. EDT it was about 205 miles (325 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 250 miles (450 kilometers) east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).

Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over warm ocean waters and move toward land.

A National Weather Service forecaster has said it will be the "storm of a lifetime" for parts of the Carolina coast.

A three-minute video that NASA published Wednesday morning shows Hurricane Florence from a space-station's-eye view, as a camera some 250 miles above earth pans slowly over the storm.

"This is a horrific nightmare storm from a meteorological perspective", University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd said.

"People do not live and survive to tell the tale about what their experience is like with storm surge", Long said. The hurricane was moving northwest in the Atlantic at 15 miles per hour and was packing sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. Right now the storm does not have a lot of speed behind it, so the rainfall will likely be extensive along the coastal areas, with historic flooding predicted there. The GFS model has 20 or so inches of rain falling over the next couple of days and you can see how that rain accumulates over time. In South Carolina, close to the Georgia line, Beaufort County emergency chief Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case.

Almost 1000 prisoners in SC will not be moved from their cells, despite a mandatory evacuation order in the area.

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