Hurricane Florence: What storm surge could look like on East Coast

Here's how large Hurricane Florence is compared to Kentucky

Why a weaker, Category 2 hurricane is still dangerous

Hurricane expert Dr Rick Knabb warns: "Yes good news that intensity of Florence has come down, to lessen wind damage somewhat".

A ideal storm of unfortunate circumstances means Florence will likely be catastrophic for parts of the Southeast. Millions of people were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks. In other words, this hurricane will basically stall - pounding the same parts of the Carolinas over and over again. We probably will be getting heavy winds and rain for the next few days.

This kind of long-term attack portends severe destruction. Unsure of what they might find when they return home, the couple went shopping for a recreational vehicle. So will the trees. Electricity remained out for much of the city, known for its historic mansions, with power lines lying across roads like wet strands of spaghetti.

Even if Hurricane Florence's category weakens, or if the storm no longer maintains its hurricane status, the amount of rain can still be biblical. A Category 2 storm means winds of 96-110 miles per hour; a Category 3 storm means 111-129 miles per hour. Officials say people refusing to evacuate could end up alone, drenched and in the dark, as rescue crews won't go out to help in winds above 50 miles per hour (80 kph).

But astonishing winds aren't the biggest danger. The storm surge could reach up to more than 3.9m, if the maximum surge coincides with high tide.

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Storm surge is basically a wall of seawater that could fall on and swallow parts of the coast. It ranged 59 to 83 feet Wednesday morning.

"You put your life at risk by staying", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. Heavy rain, storm surge, damaging winds, rough surf and isolated tornadoes will be possible, especially in eastern North Carolina.

The powerful storm already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say that "catastrophic" freshwater flooding is expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.

Hurricane Florence is being seen as a monster of a storm zeroing in on the Southeastern coast with more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights.

Nearly 800,000 people are reported to be without power already in North Carolina, and officials have warned restoring electricity could take days or even weeks. By comparison, Washington, D.C., gets an average of 40 inches of rain per year.

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Rainfall will accumulate near 2 feet in North Carolina. Currently, the water and sewer systems have been shut off in Wrightsville Beach, though the power remains on. On the inland side facing the river, Cramer says rising waters will very likely be "lapping at the first floor of our elevated homes".

Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly.

And in the 29 years since Hurricane Hugo struck, the population of the coastal Carolinas has skyrocketed. More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

"Don't let the category of this storm deceive you", said Kate Garner, with the FOX8 MAX Weather Center. "But this is pretty serious".

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