Hurricane Florence was downgraded late Thursday to a Category 1 storm, as the North Carolina coast was battered by hurricane-force winds and a life-threatening storm surge.
State officials are bracing for the worst. A tattered American flag seen flying on a live surf camera at Frying Pan Tower in North Carolina is evidence of the strong wind gusts pounding the coast.
“Hurricane-force winds” had begun hitting the state’s coast, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an 11 p.m. EDT update.
Even though Florence’s winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 140 mph earlier in the week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper maintained his warning.
“Don’t relax, don’t get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Today the threat becomes a reality,” Cooper said.
The core of the storm is about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina about 50 miles south of Morehead, City, North Carolina, the NHC said.
Florence is moving northwest at 5 mph with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, the update said.
“On the forecast track, the center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and South Carolina later tonight, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina in the hurricane warning area on Friday,” the update said.
“A slow motion across portions of eastern and central South Carolina is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.”
The storm is likely to bring significant rain to the Carolinas, where some places could see upwards of 20 inches, the update said. This is expected to cause “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.”