Hurricane Florence: Carolinas brace for 'storm of lifetime'

Atlantic Beach United States. Coastal cities in North Carolina South Carolina and Virgnia are under evacuation orders as the Cate

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images North America

People are seen inside a shelter run by Red Cross before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Grantsboro, N.C., September 13, 2018. Eastern Time on Thursday.

"We have lots of water, we've got lots of food, lots of canned food, non-perishable food", she said. Millions were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks.

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. "This is low tide, and it looks like high tide", she said.

At the 500-acre North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, workers shepherded a menagerie including elephants, giraffes and chimpanzees indoors, forming a sort of modern-day, stationary Noah's Ark to ride out the flood.

As if that weren't enough, an quake also hit SC about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

The 2.6-magnitude quake was the state's fifth this year. That included the busy Charleston and Myrtle Beach airports in SC and Wilmington in North Carolina. Airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.

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In Pender County, North Carolina, a woman suffered a heart attack and died because hurricane debris blocking roads prevented paramedics from reaching her. Wind damage is expected as well, with hurricane-force sustained winds and wind gusts topping 100 miles per hour in some places. Additional crops, including all of North Carolina's cotton, remain to be harvested.

Kaplan has been working with emergency managers in North Carolina and school administrators in Boston and Charlotte to coordinate the university's response. "Corn harvest ranges 75 percent in the east to just beginning in the west", said Steve Troxler, the state's agricultural commissioner. "Everybody laughs at the fact that this storm got downgraded. but I've never seen tree devastation this bad". Up to 3 inches of rainfall are expected for parts of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic and Haiti, possibly causing life-threatening flash flooding.

For Western North Carolina, the storm is not going to be felt until Saturday.

Government disaster management agencies have encouraged evacuation.

Southeastern coastal North Carolina and far northeastern SC are expected to get pelted with 20 to 30 inches of rain, and some isolated spots may get up to 40 inches in 48 hours.

"Don't relax", Cooper said on Thursday. "Plan to be without power for days". Check on your family and neighbors to make sure they are prepared as well. Kilbourne said the houses sit 18 to 30 feet above sea level, so they were not anxious about the storm surge.

WHAT'S HAPPENING: Hurricane Florence looms over East Coast
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it is unclear how many did. More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel and hundreds more were rescued elsewhere from rising water.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued.

Dozens of North Carolina school districts were closed, as well as almost all schools in the University of North Carolina system. Athletic events, notably college football games, also were postponed.

The surge in power outages along the coast is the result of gusts coming off Hurricane Florence and knocking trees into power lines, said Lisa Crawley, a spokeswoman for the co-ops.

Young and his team of scientists including Katie Peek and Blair Tormey built the database which tracks all storm surge levels since the 1800s.

After making landfall in Jamaica and Cuba and weakening to a tropical storm, Sandy re-intensified into a Category 2 hurricane shortly before making landfall in New Jersey as a post-tropical cyclone, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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Friday's expected landfall near the NC/SC border will cause Florence to weaken as it interacts with the coast. Helene had maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour and was moving north at 18 miles per hour .

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