Emergency officials on Wednesday urged millions of residents along the southeastern USA coast to finish preparations ahead of Hurricane Florence, which is expected to unleash damaging winds and life-threatening amounts of rain when it makes landfall this week. It's about 90 miles northeast of Wrightsville Beach, where Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. September 14. Those storms had cloud tops as cold as or colder than minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 62.2 Celsius).
Masters said there's a tug-of-war between two clear skies high pressure systems - one off the coast and one over MI - and the more the Great Lakes one wins, the more southerly Florence will be.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as merely a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.
But the hurricane had slowed to a crawl as it traced the North Carolina-South Carolina shoreline, drenching coastal communities for hours on end.
Amtrak canceled its passenger rail service south of Washington, D.C., and there were almost 600 cancellations of flights arriving or departing from major airports in the Carolinas. This rainfall will produce life-threatening flash flooding.
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'North Carolina, my message is clear: Disaster is at the doorstep, and it's coming in'.
Appeals to stay safe came from as far away as space as German astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted pictures of the monster storm taken from the International Space Station along with the warning: "Watch out, America!" A Doppler radar picture in the background that kept rolling amid the silence showed Florence swirling toward the coast.
Storm surge watches and warnings are separated from hurricane alerts because hurricane-force winds and storm surges don't always occur at the same place or the same time, said Rick Knabb, the former director of the hurricane center, and now the hurricane expert at the Weather Channel. "As a result, it will remain fairly close to the coast today, with much of the circulation still over water".
After landfall, Florence slowed to a pace that would see the system likely lingering for days. Significant weakening is expected at the weekend. It was expected to slowly move southwest into SC before turning north, forecasters said. Florence will then move generally northward across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.
High winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., on September 14, 2018.
More than 722,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said.
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The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions. The impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.
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