Hurricane Florence is now around 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Wilmington, North Carolina as authorities warn residents not to get complacent over reports the hurricane has slowed slightly in the last day.
Outer bands from the hurricane have already reached the coastline with coastal properties buffeted by high winds and driving rain.
An estimated 10 million people could be affected by the storm and around one million have already been instructed to evacuate.
The wind and rain of Hurricane Florence have begun to lash North Carolina, with the storm growing in size on Thursday. Live updates: https://t.co/8LV30OOJZa
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 13, 2018
“This storm will bring destruction”
The storm has been revised to category two after earlier being as high as category four and the intensity at the eye of the storm is expected to reduce but North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned it must not be underestimated.
“Storm surge and massive flooding – both are going to be extreme,” Cooper said. “ Catastrophic effects will be felt outside the center of the storm. We are on the wrong side of this thing. This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina.”
Hurricane Florence is moving more slowly now but this may worsen coastal flooding. It has also grown in size over the past day.
— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) September 13, 2018
“The greatest storm surge inundation is expected between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers and western Pamlico Sound,” the National Hurricane Center said in its latest forecast. “This is a life-threatening situation.”
More than 7,000 people had moved into emergency shelters ahead of the storm’s expected arrival on Friday local time.
A tweet published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reminded locals that it only takes six inches of moving water to knock a person over and two feet of moving water to carry a vehicle away. Rainfall of up to 1 metre is expected on the Carolina coast after the hurricane hits on Friday local time.
Slight dip in wind speed brings Hurricane Florence to Category 2, but dangerous wind, rain and storm surge still threaten Southeast https://t.co/HBcFdHOSve
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 13, 2018
Storm surge could be the biggest problem for local residents. This type of flooding occurs when wind from the storm pushes water onshore above the normal tide lines. When Galveston, Texas was hit by storm surge from Hurricane Ike in 2008, it uprooted entire buildings. Storm surges of up to 4 metres are being predicted along some coastal stretches of North Carolina.
Heavy rains are also expected in neighbouring states such as Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
President Trump’s response to the hurricane
Coordinating the response to what is expected to be a devastating storm will be a major test for the Trump administration.
The US President received an updating briefing on the hurricane on Thursday afternoon local time and tweeted: “FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready. We are with you!”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
Carmen Yulin Cruz, mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico wrote: “This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!”.
In a later tweet, she said Trump was “delusional, paranoid and unhinged from any sense of reality”.
Senior Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, moved to distance themselves from Trump’s claims on Hurricane Maria.