When Alexander Gerst and Ricky Arnold, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), attempted to photograph Hurricane Florence, the storm was so big they "could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens", according to Gerst. The storm's 12-mph forward speed Thursday morning was a marked drop from Wednesday's 17-mph speeds.
Dr Greg Postel, the network's hurricane specialist, said three feet of water was enough to knock people off their feet, potentially carry cars away and flood lower levels of buildings. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely unsafe storm for rain and storm surge. As the storm moves inland, Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland will also be in peril.
That said, the storm is still expected to stall once it hits the Wilmington coast, with weather officials early Thursday raising the expected total rainfall for Wilmington to 35 inches - weather officials had predicted 30 inches for Wilmington in briefings released Wednesday.
Some 11,000 power outages have been reported in North Carolina.
The head of Duke Energy Corp.'s North Carolina operations says it could take weeks to restore electricity if the company's prediction that 1 million to 3 million of its 4 million customers lose power. Florence, the most ominous for U.S. residents, is expected to make landfall today. BBC News reports that over 10 million people are under a storm watch as the East Coast braces itself for this hot, wet natural disaster.
Although the storm is approaching the USA coastline as a Category 2 hurricane after weakening from a Category 4 storm, that doesn't mean the storm will be gentle.
The latest storm surge has some areas under over 8 feet of water.
SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination. The Charleston area is under a storm surge watch.
The Hurricane Florence has began to unleash fierce rains across the United States southeast.
National Guard soldiers from the state, North Carolina and Virginia are mobilizing to prepare for hurricane recovery efforts. And newly formed Subtropical Storm Joyce is not expected to threaten land soon. If the storm makes landfall as a Category 2, these winds will be damaging, sustained at up to 160km/h or so with higher gusts.
Hurricane hunter aircraft also fly through the storm, taking data on wind speed to figure out exactly how intense Florence is at any given moment. But forecasters also said the opposite could happen when it brushed up against strong wind shear. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads.
After forecast models showed steering currents collapsing as the storm nears the Carolina coast Tuesday, forecasters shifted the track slightly south.
While it is extremely likely that the eastern Carolinas will be hardest hit by the storm Thursday into Friday (local time), the storm's direction becomes far less certain over the weekend and next week.