'Catastrophic' Hurricane Florence buffets U.S. east coast

Screaming winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge whipped the Carolina coast Thursday to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

Even if Florence were downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, it would still cause extensive damage, Abrams says.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore. Waves off the shore of North Carolina have already gotten as high as 13 feet, he saYS.

Florence had once been a Category 4 storm, but even as a Category 1, it could still packs winds of 90 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.

Her neighbors gave her the key to their house, which is two stories and might be safer from flooding, she said.

In Carolina Beach, North Carolina, authorities have stopped allowing traffic to the island via the only bridge between the island and the mainland.

The result: prolonged storm surge, wind and rain.

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Forecasters' European climate model is predicting two trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com.

"Either no (hotel) rooms are available, or we are denied because the breed or size of dogs", she said.

But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

"But that's not going to be until Monday", Eliasen said". "I've got four cats inside the house".

Several of the images were taken when the ISS was directly over the eye of the hurricane.

North Carolina has had this problem before.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) said people living near rivers, streams and lowland areas in the region were most at risk.

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General O'Shaughnessy said there were about 7,000 U.S. military personnel now in place and ready to respond to the storm, along with ships, helicopters, high-wheeled vehicles and other equipment.

More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

Residents of the Carolinas and neighboring states should consult local authorities for any evacuation orders and other preparation guidelines.

Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

In Wilmington, residents who had decided not to evacuate were lining up to get ice from a vending machine - US$2 for a 7.2kg bag.

But, knowing the intensity of Florence's impact on Myrtle Beach, "My friends are worrying me right now", Combs said.

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