Watch live streaming video of Hurricane Florence rolling into North Carolina

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The Hurricane Center reported heavy rain bands with tropical-storm-force winds had arrived in the North Carolina Outer Banks.

Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 300 miles ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swathe from SC to OH and Pennsylvania could get deluged.

"So this is a very unsafe storm", said Mr Byard.

- Hurricane Florence remains a Category 2 storm as it makes its approaches to the Carolinas. "We know that this is an extremely unsafe situation", Cooper told "CBS This Morning" on Thursday.

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

Local utility crews are traveling east to the North Carolina coast to help with restoration efforts in preparation for large numbers of power outages caused by Hurricane Florence. Hurricane Helene is veering toward Europe and newly formed Subtropical Storm Joyce is not expected to threaten land.

The Hurricane Florence has began to unleash fierce rains across the United States southeast.

"It has moved in", said Jordan Baker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Wilmington. "We're about to be in the thick of it".

Coastal North Carolina felt the first bite of Hurricane Florence on Thursday as winds began to rise, a prelude to the slow-moving tempest that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the USA southeast.

As of 5 a.m. EDT it was centered about 205 miles (325 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 250 miles (450 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).

Early this year, in the Journal Nature, atmospheric researcher James Kossin said "the tropical-cyclone translation speed has decreased globally by 10 per cent over the period 1949-2016, which is very likely to have compounded, and possibly dominated, any increases in local rainfall totals that may have occurred as a result of increased tropical-cyclone rain rates". And this, he said, is like nothing Toronto has ever seen.

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He said that people living near rivers, streams and lowland areas in the region must flee.

"It doesn't matter where you are", he said. "It will probably fall faster than it can leave".

Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph) as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early Thursday, reducing the storm from Category 4 to Category 2, but forecasters warned that the enormous wind field has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land. Hurricane Florence was more recently downgraded to a Category 2 storm.

The storm has pretty much followed the forecast track through now, but the issue will be Thursday or Friday as it nears the coast and the steering currents collapse.

The storm surge - often the most perilous risk to life posed by any hurricane - is expected to inundate areas along the coast with saltwater that's 9 to 13 feet deep, from Cape Fear, N.C., to Cape Lookout, N.C.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico", Trump said on Twitter.

The full impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.

In Virginia, mandatory evacuations began Tuesday for about 245,000 residents in a portion of the Eastern Shore area.

Roslyn Fleming, 56, said her granddaughter was baptized in the inlet near where she lives in the coastal community of Sea Breeze and on Thursday morning she used her iPad to make a video of the scene.

New Hanover County officials said Thursday morning that it could accept more residents seeking shelter at Trask Middle School, Eaton Elementary School, Codington Elementary School, the Johnson Pre-K Center and Noble Middle School.

"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety", Deal said.

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