At 11 p.m. Thursday, Hurricane Florence had weakened to Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds off the North Carolina coast.
The storm continued creeping at 6 mph to the northwest. Federal forecasters expected it to turn overnight to move more westward then begin to crawl down the coast toward the South Carolina-North Carolina border, where earlier forecasts suggested it would move inland on Friday.
But federal meteorologists couldn't rule out that Florence might make landfall farther south. Three computer models still indicated the storm would straddle the South Carolina coastline before turning in closer to Charleston.
"While that is not shown by the official forecast, it cannot yet be ruled out as a possibility," said National Hurricane Center specialist Robbie Berg.
Florence was 50 miles south of Morehead City and 60 miles east southeast of Wilmington. Its wind field continued to span 80 miles at hurricane force and 195 miles at tropical storm force.
The North Carolina coast was getting hammered. A wind instrument at Fort Macon, in Atlantic Beach outside Morehead City, was registering 77 mph winds and gusts near 100 mph, according to Charleston-based meteorologist Shea Gibson, of the private companyWeatherFlow.
The National Weather Service reported a storm surge of 10 feet in the Neuse River near New Bern.
A flare-up of thunderstorms before 7 p.m. Thursday, stirred by the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream, had meteorologists watching to see if the already dangerous storm regained any strength, but the 8 p.m. National Hurricane Center advisory kept its winds at 100 mph, a Category 2 hurricane.div">>