Winds, rain intensify as Hurricane Florence pummels North Carolina

Florence edged closer to the east coast of the US Thursday with tropical-force winds and rain already lashing barrier islands just off the North Carolina mainland

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference that the "historic" hurricane would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state in several feet of water, Reuters reports.

MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA-Time is running short to get out of the way of Hurricane "Florence," a monster of a storm that has a region of more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights as it zeroes in on the USA southeast coast.

WILMINGTON, North Carolina - The outer edges of Hurricane Florence began lashing coastal North Carolina with heavy winds and flooding roads on Thursday hours before expected landfall that will bring walls of water and lingering downpours.

The National Hurricane Center's forecast Thursday pinpointed Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, for landfall of the eye, but it could aim north or south as it nears shore, and the massive storm could have catastrophic effects far from wherever it hits the beach.

Hurricane Florence, they found, will grow about 50 miles (80 kilometers) larger and will dump 50 percent more rain over a period from September 11 to September 16 than it would have in a world before climate change.

At 11:00 pm, Florence was over the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and moving northwest at six miles per hour, the NHC said.

Officials pleaded with residents across the Carolinas to treat the storm as a deadly threat.

Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain.

Most people are trying to leave North Carolina as Hurricane Florence starts to move in, but Heather Foster, of Litchfield, went visit her daughter, Jazzmyne Constable, who lives in Wilmington.

Officials have issued warnings to the public as Hurricane Florence approaches.

At least 280,000 people are already without power as the outskirts of the storm lashed North and SC, and Virginia. Millions were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks. Another 4,300 people were in 61 shelters in SC, officials said.

This is the National Weather Service's predicted path for Hurricane Florence as of 6 p.m.

Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the US East Coast as a Category 2 hurricane with winds up to 110mph - slower than yesterday but covering a wider area. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

A man also died while plugging in a generator in Pender County, and rescue crews were unable to reach a woman who had suffered a heart attack.

Not everybody was heeding orders to evacuate, however.

Many people who stay say they want to protect their property from nature and looters.

The city's residential garbage, recycling and yard waste has been cancelled for Friday and has been rescheduled for Monday, weather permitting.

"What we always try to do is make sure that everybody is informed, aware of everything that's going on, so they can make the right decisions", Kaplan said.

"We're recommending people to stay here. We have a four- to six-time increase of traffic heading out of Myrtle Beach, but it needs to be much more than that", Ms Bethune said. "We're fully prepared. Food, medical, everything you can imagine, we are ready".

Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "This is low tide, and it looks like high tide", she said.