© Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Sand bags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, North Carolina, on Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast.Sand bags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, North Carolina, on Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast. Hurricane Florence could batter parts of coastal North and South Carolina with hurricane conditions for 24 hours or more and bring up to 40 inches of rain in its center, federal emergency officials said Wednesday.
Here's the latest on Hurricane Florence
"This could mean that parts of North and South Carolina near the coast will experience hurricane-force winds and hurricane conditions for 24 hours or more," he said.
A large area of North Carolina was forecast to get 10 inches of rain or more Friday into Saturday.
"This is not going to be a glancing blow," said Jeff Byard, FEMA's associate administrator for response and recovery. "This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.
"The storm weakened to a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday afternoon and some weakening is expected to begin by late Thursday. But the National Hurricane Center warned, "Florence is forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it nears the U.S. coast late Thursday and Friday."
Meanwhile, Duke Energy, the main power supplier for North and South Carolina, said on Twitter that as many as 1 million to 3 million of the company's 4 million customers could experience power outages.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned those under evacuation orders that time was running out and urged the state to prepare for the powerful storm."
North Carolina, my message is clear: Disaster is at the doorstep and it's coming in," he said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
"If you're on the coast, there's still time to get out safely. No possession is worth your life.
"He warned North Carolinians to plan to be without power for days and "understand the rain may last for days and not hours.""The National Weather Service has just said it will be unbelievably damaging and they can't emphasize that enough," he added.
Cooper said on MSNBC that some 2,800 National Guard soldiers have been activated and others are standing by, and he thanked other states that have sent personnel and equipment to North Carolina. "I think we're ready for this, but we know that it's going to be tough," he said.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency on Wednesday afternoon, joining South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
© Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Residents board up a house in Wrightsville, N.C.Bobby Vorn and Butch Beaudry prepare to attach wooden planks over the windows of an oceanfront home, less than two days before Hurricane Florence is expected to strike Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Sept.12, 2018. West Virginia has declared a state of preparedness.
"In light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall, I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas," he said in a statement.
Christina Saracina, a resident of Cape Carteret, North Carolina, said she was evacuating with her elderly parents and headed to Atlanta.
"We sat through a Category 2 hurricane before and it did enough damage that we decided that if it was a Category 3 or above we were out," she said. "It was a hard decision because you're leaving all your possessions and your home. You're trying to pack whatever you can and go."
She said she boarded up her home and her parents' home before leaving.
"The area was going to be a disaster zone," she said. "There's a lot of trees in the area and we're by the water."
Edward Coddington, 83, left his mobile home ahead of the storm and went to a shelter in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with his daughter, Mary Edsall.
"He's on oxygen, you want to make sure you have backup power generators," Edsall said of her father, adding that it was important for them to stay at a place where even if the power initially went out "he will be able to continue recharge his battery for his oxygen tank."
The Red Cross said that more than 1,600 people spent Tuesday night in 36 shelters in the Carolinas, and dozens of more shelters were opening Wednesday. South Carolina's government said Wednesday that it had over 1,800 people in shelters in that state.
Florence was expected to strengthen over the next 24 hours and then slow down as it makes its way toward the southeast coast and it was possible it may not make official landfall until early Saturday, according to NBC News meteorologist Erin McGarry.
A weakening Florence will affect South Carolina from Myrtle Beach to Charleston more than was previously anticipated, McGarry said. The timing of the most destructive winds and storm surge was from Thursday evening to Friday evening, she said.
© Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: The eye of Hurricane Florence over the AtlanticThe eye of Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic on Sept. 12 The hurricane was headed for the southeast coast and is expected to being life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to parts of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states, according to the National Hurricane Center.Hurricane and storm surge warnings were in effect for South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, and Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.
A hurricane watch was in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to South Santee River, South Carolina, and a storm surge watch was in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to South Santee River and north of Duck, North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border.Several states have sent firefighters or other personnel to help with search and rescue and other impacts from the hurricane.
George Ruiz, 45, from Dauphin Island, Alabama, and his rescue organization Geaux Rescue, was headed to Wilmington, North Carolina, on Wednesday to help if needed. Ruiz also responded to flooding in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, and to Florida to help after Hurricane Irma last year.
"I want to be out there helping people," Ruiz, who said he spent 20 years in the Coast Guard before retiring three years ago, told NBC News in a phone interview.
"Bringing someone back to their family is one of the most amazing things in the world," he said. "Being a human, being an American, we should just want to help each other out."
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