The center of the storm will make landfall near Wilmington early Friday morning.
For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest. "And since we're already on high ground, those two things together kind of help insulate us a little more than, I would say, others".
While the storm's winds will abate as it moves inland, they could continue to gust to tropical-storm-force - especially near its core.
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Wind gusts of up to 100 miles per hour were reported at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, the hurricane center said.
As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5 mph (7 kph).
Gov. Roy Cooper of the Tar Heel state announced a State of Emergency ahead of the storm making its way to the coast. More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centres were moved out of the storm's path.
Municipal power agencies are reporting few outages, except New Bern, which had 17,820 customers without power, according to ElectriCities, the organization that supports the local power agencies.
Joyce, with winds extending about 35 miles from its center, is expected to tap the brakes a bit and turn eastward by Friday night, and then accelerate northeastward over the weekend. Florence dumped more than 20 inches on Oriental, N.C., the NHC said.
Authorities in New Bern said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater.
Officials have assured them they will be rescued by FEMA teams who are ready to do swift water rescue.
Hurricane Florence began lashing the North Carolina coast on Thursday, with heavy surf pounding the Outer Banks and barrier islands, winds shredding flags, and a storm surge pushing seawater over some beaches and past oceanfront homes.
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