5 important things to know about Hurricane Florence

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Similar to Hurricane Harvey - the largest rainfall event in US history - Florence could bring heavy, sustained rainfall over the Carolinas, delivering up to 40 inches in some areas, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

While Florence was slightly reduced in strength earlier from 140 miles per hour winds, meteorologists expect the hurricane to jump back to a Category 4 by Thursday morning.

The Category 4 storm was expected to start hitting the North and SC coasts sometime Thursday or Friday, and should make landfall near Wilmington, N.C., early Saturday morning, according to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center. The National Hurricane Center is calling for 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimetres) of rain in North Carolina, with spots up to 40 inches (100 centimetres).

"This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast", said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses could be flooded in North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper warned.

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.

The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".

A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.

Kevin Miller, a 50-year-old electrician, said he planned to ride out the storm at his home near Charleston.

Computer simulations - especially the often star-performing European model - push the storm further south, even into SC and Georgia. More than 5 inches of rain is expected along a 570 mile-long stretch of the eastern United States, including periods of "heavy and long-lasting rainfall", says the National Hurricane Center.

Some 38cm (15in) to 64cm (25in) of rain is forecast in some areas - with up to one metre (40in) at the centre of the storm. "It's going to happen". "We've just never seen anything like this". Shelters in the city were filling and some people were being bused inland to Raleigh, even though some residents there were told they might have to evacuate because of flooding.

"Whether or not the game could have been played, we made the decision we think is best for the state and those who are evacuating the coast", athletics director Ray Tanner said in a statement released by the school. Friday will be the worst of it for us with wind, rain and flooding. Even scarier: It could get more intense as it gets closer to the Carolinas.

"A lot of our storefronts are boarded up", said Lynn Davis, town manager for Belhaven which sits at sea level in northeastern North Carolina.

"Trucks, planes and people are ready to help if needed", Clark said, adding that the company is working with the Red Cross and others.

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