Watch a livestream of Hurricane Florence bearing down on North Carolina

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USA power companies said over 895,000 homes and businesses located mostly in North Carolina and SC were without power on Friday after Florence hit the Southeast coast.

The US east coast girded for a battering from Hurricane Florence late Thursday as the monster storm's outer edge began lashing the Carolinas with heavy wind and rain, which forecasters warned could trigger life-threatening floods even as it further weakened.

Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and Masters said Florence would still be an extremely risky storm for rain and storm surge.

Florence has been bearing down on the Carolinas for days, and it has expanded in size, with tropical-storm-force winds extending almost 200 miles from the storm's eye.

About 10 million people live in the path of the slow-moving storm and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles.

"The idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more. once you leave, you don't know how many days it will be before you can return", a Wilmington resident named Kate tells VOA. "But we're going to be okay", he said.

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for.

Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.

US President Donald Trump touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way.

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The center downgraded Florence to a Category 1 hurricane, but warned that it still carried "very unsafe winds".

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent". According to Fire Chief Glen Rogers, there are in fact only 12 people left on the beach to sit out the storm.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

Air Force General Terrence J O'Shaughnessy, head of US Command, said search and rescue is a top priority but that the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of rescuers.

Ken Graham, the director of the NHC, said: "It truly is really about the whole size of this storm".

Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.

"I end up hearing more negative stories about leaving than staying", Mrs. Mramer said.

Duke Energy Corp, the biggest utility in the area with over 4 million customers, estimated the storm could cause between 1 million and 3 million outages.

As of 8 p.m., Florence was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5 mph (7 kph). The National Weather Service measured storm surge in New Bern at 10 feet (3 meters) deep. They then did the forecast again using conditions that would have been expected in a climate unchanged by human activity, meaning greenhouse gases, aerosols and other atmospheric metrics were all set to "pre-industrial levels", or those found more than 150 years ago.

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