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Hurricane Florence weakened into a Category 2 hurricane as it moved towards east coast of the United States, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Wednesday, but a life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall were still expected.

Hurricane and storm surge warnings and watches are now in effect up and down the coast of North Carolina and SC.

The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help.

Florence, for her part, shares similarities with Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Houston on August 25 of 2017 as a Category 4 hurricane and dumped record-setting amounts of rain.

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 200kmh winds on Thursday, but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore.

Perry says his department has been in contact with power companies and gas pipeline operators.

Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland.

In the city of New Bern, one of the hardest hit areas in North Carolina, more than 300 people were trapped in cars, on roofs and in their attics overnight after over 10 feet of storm surge flooded the river-front city.

Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it is unclear how many did.

It was expected to begin pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend.

By 1:50 pm (1750 GMT) the winds had dropped to 75 miles per hour (120 kph) and the center was moving west at a 6 miles per hour (10 kph), the NHC said, and parts of North and SC would get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).


The massive system was about 700 kilometers (435 miles) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Almost 2,100 flights have been canceled through Saturday.

Private meteorologist Ryan Maue of Weathermodels.com in an email called the overnight European computer simulation "another model run for the ages".

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency "in light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall". The Outer Banks of North Carolina took the initial brunt Thursday afternoon, with parts of Highway 12 - the main road that runs through Ocracoke and Hatteras islands - flooding and becoming impassable. Unsure of what they might find when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle.

"Typically, we see a stimulus effect that creates jobs and raises incomes for South Carolinians", said Joseph Von Nessen, a research economist at the University of SC.

Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.

Coast Guard shallow water rescue teams took up positions in preparation for search and rescue operations once the worst of the storm passes.

Blowing ashore with howling 90 miles per hour winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster. Most other beachgoers were long gone.

Authorities in the North Carolina city of New Bern said there were around 150 people waiting to be rescued from rising flood waters.

"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said. "You feel like you should have already left".


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