Outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence have begun lashing North Carolina as the monster storm moves nearer to the coast.
Florence’s top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140mph to 110mph which reduced the hurricane’s power from Category 4 to Category 2. However, forecasters warned the widening storm, and its likelihood of lingering along the coast for several days, raises the risk of surging ocean water and torrential rain.
“For a meandering storm, the biggest concern — as we saw with Harvey — is the huge amount of rainfall,” said Chris Landsea, head of tropical analysis and forecast branch at the National Hurricane Centre.
As of 8am local time, it was centred about 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 220 miles east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving north west at 12mph. Hurricane-force winds were blowing 80 miles from its centre, and tropical storm force winds reached up to 195 miles from the eye.
The hurricane centre’s best guess was that Florence’s eye would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina border.
Then, it will probably hover along the coast on Saturday, pushing up to 13ft of storm surge and dumping 20 to 30 inches of rain on both states, before heading over the Appalachian Mountains.