Space Station astronaut captures mammoth Hurricane Florence from directly above

Space Station astronaut captures mammoth Hurricane Florence from directly above

Beach communities in North and SC emptied out on Wednesday as Hurricane Florence threatened to unleash pounding surf and potentially deadly flooding as the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on the southeastern states in decades.

In the 11 p.m. ET advisory, Florence was 280 miles southeast of Wilmington, NC, packing maximum-sustained winds of 110 mph and moving to the northwest at 17 mph.

Outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence have begun lashing North Carolina as the monster storm moves nearer to the coast.

"Heed the warnings", said Byard, adding there was "well over $20 billion" in FEMA's disaster relief fund.

"The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come", he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City in North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia, to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports.

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools and factories were being shuttered. Rescue swimmers and other ground crew members will head straight to Raleigh, North Carolina, Macy said.

About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million more live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the East Coast, is it time for a radical rethink on what it means to be prepared?

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Then, as the high-pressure system steering Florence weakens, the hurricane is expected to hang out inland for days, showering the region with rain much like Hurricane Harvey did to Houston a year ago.

It was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina.

Florence is the most unsafe of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.

"This storm is relentless and excruciating", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told CNN late on Friday.

The storm surge, or wind-driven seawater, poses a huge danger, FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned on ABC's "Good Morning America".

Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm. She said it will become a "major flooding event".

The forecast suggests as much as 40in of rain over seven days along the coast, with the deluge continuing even as the centre of the storm pushes its way over the Appalachian Mountains.

NHC Director Ken Graham warned that rivers up to 60km inland may flood.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

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