The guest that won't leave: 4 dead as Florence hits coast

Florence weakens to Category 2 hurricane but still life-threatening: NHC | New Hampshire

The slow forward motion means Florence will batter the area with heavy rainfall, producing up to 40 inches in coastal North Carolina and northeastern SC.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

It is an "absolutely a personal decision" to stay or go, Lori Crouch, a spokesperson for the city said.

Florence's eye could come ashore early Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.

Maryland might dodge the extreme conditions Hurricane Florence is expected to bring to the Carolinas, but it could still rain cats and dogs here if southern shelters overflow with four-legged friends in need of new homes.

Fraudsters posing as government workers on Tuesday forced people to leave their homes and businesses in Virginia as Hurricane Florence inched closer to the United States east coast.

It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 80 miles per hour, but stronger wind gusts have been reported.

"In a matter of seconds, my house was flooded up to the waist, and now it is to the chest", said Peggy Perry, who along with three relatives, was trapped early Friday in her New Bern home, according to CNN.

Although Florence weakened to a Category 2 hurricane late Wednesday night, the storm is still expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas when it makes landfall Thursday night or Friday.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the USA electricity sector has been well prepared for Hurricane Florence even as hundreds of thousands of homes lose power in the storm.

In the 5 a.m. ET advisory, Florence was 205 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, NC, packing maximum-sustained winds of 110 mph and moving to the northwest at 15 mph.

The head of Duke Energy Corp.'s North Carolina operations says it could take weeks to restore electricity if the company's prediction that 1 million to 3 million of its 4 million customers lose power.

"(It's) very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Sandie Orsa, of Wilmington, who fears splintering trees will destroy her home.

Farther up the coast, in New Bern, about 150 people waited to be rescued from flooding on the Neuse River, WXII-TV reported.

The Weather Channel used the high-tech graphic to place meteorologist Erika Navarro in a virtual street, with water levels rising steadily around her.

More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and state of Virginia had been urged to evacuate.

Thousands of people hunkered down in schools, shelters and a coliseum in Winston-Salem. The town of Oriental, North Carolina, got more than 20 inches of rain just a few hours into the deluge.

Forecasters said that given the storm's size and slow track, it could cause epic damage similar to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago.

Florence was seen as a major test for FEMA, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared past year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths in the desperate months that followed.

While Zone A is a mandatory evacuation zone, a city spokesperson said they would never force anyone to leave.

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