Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour, the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night. It is now at Category 1.
Flooding from Hurricane Florence has swept across the Carolinas as the massive storm surges towards the coast, threatening record rainfall and leaving scores trapped by rising waters and thousands without power.
"Just because the wind speed came down, the intensity of this storm came down. please do not let your guard down", said Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), earlier on Thursday. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.
Despite pleas from state and local officials, some residents rejected calls to evacuate. "Catastrophic effects will be felt".
Florence was 155 miles (250km) east of Myrtle Beach in SC at 17:00 EDT (21:00 GMT), and is projected to make landfall on Friday at 08:00 local time.
Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.
"Now's the time when we stop projecting and we just sit back and watch", says Young.
"Afterwards, I'm going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I'm walking the neighbourhood and making sure my neighbours are fine, because nobody can get in here". "But we can't replace us so we chose to come here".
The storm is now 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.
By Friday evening, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds weakening to 70 miles per hour as it pushed inland.
He said hurricane-force winds extended outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 200 miles out. It said it was located about 40 miles (65 km) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and forecasters predicted a slow westward march.
Hurricane Florence is on a path of destruction that will put millions of people at risk and threaten billions of dollars in property damage, centered on the Carolinas. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind does.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles. Twenty inches (50 cm) were reported by early Friday afternoon in the town of Oriental.
Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
The page says service animals aren't barred from evacuation shelters, beaches shouldn't be used for sand bags, and evacuation orders aren't enforced by FEMA.
Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo.
"I was really anxious about coming back to Cleveland because of the weather report", said Cheryl Hermsdorfer, a Cleveland area native who managed to book an earlier flight. "I learned from the past to keep the ice in the washing machine".
Another person died from a cardiac arrest when emergency services could not reach her, due to downed trees blocking their path. In Wilmington, near where the eye of the storm touched down, trees and power lines were felled and many windows broken.
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In New Bern, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000. USA media later said a second man in Lenoir County died after heavy winds knocked him down as he tried to check on his dogs.
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Waffle House has always been a popular spot for round-the-clock comfort food for locals and travelers alike throughout the South. The storm destroyed seven Waffle Houses, and the closures led management to revamp the company's disaster preparedness efforts.
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