Carolina coast braces for 'Mike Tyson punch' from hurricane

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Residents living in trailers in Wilmington, North Carolina, board up their homes and flee ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

The first rains and strong winds from Hurricane Florence began hitting North Carolina early Thursday, leading the way for a storm packing 110-mph winds. The storm is forecast to approach the coasts of the Carolinas later today, before moving near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina in the "hurricane warning" area; now, that area includes South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina as well as Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.

From his orbiting perch, Gerst offered Earthlings yet another warning about the hurricane's dangers: "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".

Florence continued to weaken overnight but it's still a hurricane and will likely maintain that status when it reaches the shoreline, though not as Category 3 or 4 - perhaps not even as a Category 2.

Early Thursday Florence was about 235 miles (378 kilometers) east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 280 miles (450 kilometers) east southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

US President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

NOAA also released another video shot from Kermit, giving a more prolonged look at the eye of the storm.

The hurricane will then gather strength and spread inland as the center of the storm edges toward the coast on Friday afternoon, bringing torrential rainfall of up to 40 inches that will continue through Saturday and Sunday.

'I can't emphasise enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge and inland flooding with this storm'.

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Cooper and his SC counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been told to leave that if they don't, they are on their own.

"While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is forecast to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane as it approaches the USA coast".

But despite the potentially devastating hurricane, forecast to make landfall on Friday with 130mph winds, people tried to offer some "relief" in the silence before the storm. These could be as high as 13ft (4m) along parts of the North Carolina coast. Tropical Storm Olivia has made landfall in the Hawaiian islands, the Philippines are bracing for the powerful typhoon Mangkhut, and Tropical Storm Isaac is nearing the Leeward Islands.

With the change in the forecast, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued an emergency declaration for the entire state to ease regulations on trucks hauling gasoline and relief supplies, and asked people to pray for those in Florence's path. "We're going to stay tight and check on everybody", he said.

"This morning I drove around for an hour looking for gas in Cary".

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said crops such as tobacco and corn are in midharvest while sweet potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and cotton are still in the field.

North and SC and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week.

Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over warm ocean waters and move toward land.

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