Hurricane Helene heading towards the United Kingdom, bringing chances of gale force winds

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In addition to the life-threatening storm surge, Florence is also forecast to dump up to 40 inches of rain after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina Thursday night or Friday.

Florence's maximum sustained winds were clocked on Thursday at 165 kph after it was downgraded to a Category 2 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the NHC.

The path of Hurricane Florence could affect the homes of more than 5 million people, and more than 1 million of them have been ordered to evacuate.

Florence's expanse even captured the attention of the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station, who have been tweeting pictures of the storm back to Earth.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as merely a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 100 miles per hour, but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.

It's unclear exactly how many people evacuated, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that protecting lives is his "absolute highest priority".

Communities along the Southeastern coast buttoned up against the onslaught of Hurricane Florence as forecasters Wednesday warned that the monster storm could hesitate just offshore for days - punishing a longer stretch of coastline harder than previously feared - before pushing inland over the weekend. Waves off the shore of North Carolina have already gotten as high as 13 feet, he saYS.

"We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge", CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

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.

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The storm was about 235 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and was moving at about 17 mph on Thursday.

She is now one of a glut of tropical storms in the Atlantic, with Florence sparking mass evacuations as she heads towards landfall in the USA states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. "It can still bring a massive storm surge ashore". As the storm moves inland, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland will also be in peril.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state.

"First and foremost, we want to make sure that safety is at the top of the list for our fans, our student-athletes and all of the citizens of the state of South Carolina", Radakovich told Mark Packer on Packer's radio show on SiriusXM. "There's nobody left to work. We're going to stay tight and check on everybody", he said. "The building's solid and Buddha will protect us".

"What to do when a hurricane is barreling towards you, school is cancelled for the week, + kids are faaaareaking out?" she wrote on the social media site. "You can't stop Mother Nature".

"Everything is packed", Espinoza said.

"The Medical University of South Carolina Hospital says they are prepared to care for their patients".

Browning's choice to stay in the hurricane warning zone wasn't easy, she said, but she "could not find anywhere to go".

Like many other officials in the storm's path, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said no one will be able to save at-risk residents if they choose to ride out the storm.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst captured this image of Hurricane Florence from the space station on September 12, 2018. "A lot of rain", said Maj.

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