• UPDATES: Florence weakens but still to bring 'life-threatening' storm surge, rainfall

    Updated:

    Latest Florence outlook:

    • Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm moving toward the coast at 17 mph 
    • Florence's winds have dropped to 110 mph
    • Hurricane warnings are in place along the coast from the Grand Stand to the Outer Banks
    • Landfall looks to be overnight Thursday or early Friday morning near Wilmington
    • Florence could make landfall as a Category 2 or 1 storm
    • Highest impact areas will be from Myrtle Beach northward to the Outer Banks, with dangerous currents and surf
    • The latest track has the storm taking an inland path with a shift south, putting Charlotte closer to the center of what's left of the circulation
    • An open-ended tropical storm watch was issued for Chesterfield and Richmond Counties 
    • The Charlotte-area will start to see the effects this weekend with bands of very heavy rain and heavy flooding threats -- especially for our eastern counties
    • The worst-case scenario for Charlotte includes winds faster than 50 mph and more than six inches of rain
    • The latest guidance picks up speed, which could lower rain totals for the area
    • Quick spin up tornadoes cannot be ruled out now that the most recent track has Charlotte on the north side of the storm


    ***SCROLL BELOW FOR MINUTE-BY-MINUTE UPDATES ON FLORENCE***


    >> Watch the video below for Severe Weather Center 9's latest forecast update on Hurricane Florence.


    In the Charlotte region, it's still unclear exactly what impact Florence will have. Channel 9 has reporters and meteorologists from Charlotte to the coast tracking every change.


    [IMAGES FROM THE COAST]

    [CLICK HERE for list of current closings]

    >> Stay updated on the storm and its latest track by downloading our weather app.

    [LINK: Build a hurricane survival kit]

    [CLICK HERE to see and download a hurricane evacuation route map]

    [RUNNING LIST: Evacuations issued as Florence approaches]

    [Hurricane Florence: Download these apps for finding gas, hotel rooms, help]

    [2018 South Carolina hurricane guide]

    [Family emergency supply kit must-haves]

    [15 safety tips that could save your life during a hurricane]


    Hurricane content:


    [SPECIAL SECTION: Tracking the Tropics]

    [CLICK HERE to catch up on Tuesday's Hurricane Florence coverage]

    [STEP-BY-STEP: How to customize your WSOCTV news app experience]

    [WATCH: Interactive Radar]

    [LINK: National Hurricane Center monitoring the tropics]

    >> Governor Roy Cooper said shelters across the state are opening to help people displaced by evacuations. You can find a full list here.

    >> The state has announced the closures of state parks, museums and other sites. For a full list click here.

    >> N.C. State Superintendent Mark Johnson provided this link for a list of districts already closed and other information related to schools across the state.

    >> Airbnb activated its “Open Homes Program” to help those who were evacuated because of Florence in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The program allows residents and aid workers to find temporary accommodations with Airbnb hosts who are opening their homes free of charge.


    MINUTE-BY-MINUTE FLORENCE UPDATES:

    10:45 p.m.

    The American Red Cross is readying for response across as many as 11 states. In western North Carolina, the Red Cross is opening shelters for evacuees.

    Officials say as many as 100,000 people may need emergency shelter. More than 1,500 Red Cross disaster workers are helping Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

    Open Shelters:

    Mecklenburg County

    • Ardrey Kell High School, 10220 Ardrey Kell Dr., Charlotte, N.C.
    • East Mecklenburg High School, 6800 Monroe Rd., Charlotte, N.C.
    • North Mecklenburg High School, 11201 Old Statesville Rd., Huntersville, N.C
    • South Mecklenburg High School, 8900 Park Rd., Charlotte, N.C.

    Opening Thursday:

    Alamance County - Open at 10 a.m.

    • The Lambs, 415 Roxboro St., Haw River, N.C.

    Guilford County - Open at Noon

    • Glenwood Recreation Center, 2010 Coliseum Blvd., N.C.

    Mecklenburg County – Open at 8 a.m.

    • West Mecklenburg High School, 7400 Tuckaseegee Rd., Charlotte, N.C.

    Montgomery County - Open at 7 p.m.

    • Page Elementary School, 897 Page St., Troy, N.C.

    Randolph County - Open at 8 p.m.

    • First Baptist Church, 133 N. Church St., Asheboro, N.C.

    Rockingham County - Open at Noon

    • Rockingham Middle School, 182 High School Rd., Reidsville, N.C.

    10 p.m.

    The National Weather Service told Channel 9 its local offices were not able to issue tropical storm watches for inland counties until this hurricane season.

    A tropical storm watch was issued Chesterfield and Ricmond counties Wednesday evening and is in effect indefinitely.

    8:40 p.m.

    A South Carolina city in the projected path of Hurricane Florence has put a curfew into place for residents who remain.

    The Myrtle Beach Chamber announced on Twitter Wednesday that the city had declared a curfew from 10 p.m. Wednesday through 6 a.m. Thursday. Officials say other coastal communities including Surfside Beach have implemented similar curfews.

    Myrtle Beach has declared a curfew starting at 10 pm tonight, Sept, 12, and ending at 6 am Sept. 13. Surfside Beach has a curfew effective Thursday, 8 pm until 6 am until further notice. Conway has a curfew from 7 pm to 7 am on Thursday night until further notice.

    — Myrtle Beach Chamber (@MBAChamber) September 12, 2018

    Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of much of South Carolina's coast as the state waits for the storm projected to come ashore in the Carolinas later this week.

    ___

    7:15 p.m.

    South Carolina is planning to end the reversal of some interstate lanes that were switched to help move people away from the state's coast as Hurricane Florence approaches.

    Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith told reporters that, starting Thursday at 6 p.m., officers will close Interstate 26 lanes that had been switched from eastbound to westbound to move people away from the Charleston area toward the center of the state.

    Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday ordered much of the state's coast evacuated and reversed eastbound lanes to help people leave. Smith says officers will begin closing down the reversed lanes and gradually switch traffic back to its regular patterns.

    Many officers are on the road during lane reversals, manning each exit and ensuring drivers don't drive around barricades. The change allows agencies like Smith's to pull back their officers when tropical storm-force winds are expected to arrive in the state.

    ___

    6:15 p.m.

    President Donald Trump is urging those living in the path of Hurricane Florence to comply with all evacuation orders and emergency instructions.

    Speaking Wednesday at the White House, Trump said "protection of life is the absolute highest priority."

    He warned that Florence could be "one of the biggest ever to hit the East Coast."

    The storm is still a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph as it approaches the North and South Carolina coasts.

    [IMAGES: Topsail Island]

    Trump says his administration has been in "close contact" with the state and local governments soon to be impacted by the massive storm.

    ___

    6 p.m.

    Officials in the Carolinas are closing down ports as Hurricane Florence approaches their coastlines.

    North Carolina officials said Wednesday that they were closing the Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City to commercial truck traffic on Wednesday. Both facilities will be closed to traffic of any kind starting Thursday.

    South Carolina State Ports Authority spokeswoman Erin Dhand says the Port of Charleston is closing to container traffic Thursday and may re-open on Sunday, depending on the storm's track and overall conditions.

    ___

    6 p.m.

    North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says at least 50 shelters are open across the state as up to 1 million residents have been asked to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence.

    .@NC_Governor Cooper: Shelters are open all across the state. LJVM Coliseum has been opened as a Coastal Evacuation Shelter. It will hold several thousand occupants. #FlorenceNC #ncwx

    — NC Emergency Managem (@NCEmergency) September 12, 2018

    Cooper spoke at a news conference with emergency management officials Wednesday. He announced that officials were opening a large shelter at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem at 6 p.m. Wednesday with a capacity of at least 1,000.

    The governor issued an evacuation order for the state's barrier islands, and local officials have issued some evacuation orders inland as well. Altogether, Cooper says between 750,000 to 1 million residents have been asked to leave their homes.

    He warned that the coast will "feel the wrath" of Florence starting Thursday morning but said all parts of North Carolina will see some impact. He's urging people not to wait to evacuate or get prepared.

    ___

    4:30 p.m.

    The National Weather Service says more than 10 million residents in three states are under a storm watch or warning because of Hurricane Florence. There are 5.25 million people under hurricane warnings and watches and another 4.89 million under tropical storm watches and warnings.

    Hurricane and storm surge warnings for #Florence remain in effect from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. Tropical storm force winds are likely to start along the NC coast Thursday morning. https://t.co/mQ5e78uj7a? pic.twitter.com/8m3iGPC2q5

    — National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 12, 2018

    Hurricane Warnings are in effect from the South Santee River in South Carolina to Duck, North Carolina. A hurricane watch stretches from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to the South Santee River.

    A tropical storm warning is in effect from Duck, North Carolina, to the North Carolina/Virginia border, with a watch in effect from there to the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.

    ___

    4:20 p.m.

    Duke Energy says damage from Hurricane Florence could cut off electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and the outages could last for weeks.

     

    The country's No. 2 power company said Wednesday that it's anticipating 1 million to 3 million homes and businesses could lose power for lengthy periods, depending on the storm's track.

    Duke Energy North Carolina President David Fountain said Florence is so massive and its potential for damage so extensive that people could be without power for a very long time. Fountain says most storms are an inconvenience, "but Hurricane Florence will be a life-changing event for many people here in the Carolinas."

    The company says it's already is shifting thousands of power workers from its Midwest and Florida regions and getting added workers from as far away as Texas.

    ___

    3:30 p.m.

    The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District announced schools will be closed for students and staff on Thursday and Friday ahead of Florence.

    In the wake of Hurricane Florence, CMS schools will be closed for students and staff on Thursday, September 13 and Friday, September 14 to protect the safety of students, staff, families and community members. For more information, please visit: https://t.co/RVatEatoEk pic.twitter.com/Ggei26zPmB

    — CMS (@CharMeckSchools) September 12, 2018

    All CMS athletic practices, games and events will be canceled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

    Extracurricular activities and field trips scheduled for Friday and Saturday are no longer happening.

    Before school and after school enrichment programs (ASEP) are also canceled.

    Make-up days will be announced at a later date.

    School leaders said they used guidance from education, weather, emergency and law enforcement experts to make the decision.

    For more information click here.

    ___

    3 p.m.

    South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says more than 300,000 people have already evacuated the state's coasts ahead of Hurricane Florence.

    McMaster told reporters Wednesday that the storm could bring more rain to the state than 1989's devastating Hurricane Hugo.

    McMaster has ordered much of the state's coastline evacuated, reversing some lanes of a major interstate to direct all traffic inland.

    Forecasters warned as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) could fall in some portions of the state through at least Monday.

    The head of the state's National Guard also says the federal government has positioned aid ships off South Carolina's coast and they'll be ready to assist after the storm moves through.

    ___

    2 p.m.

    As motorists try to get away from the path of Hurricane Florence they are learning that some service stations are running out of gasoline.

    Patrick DeHaan is an analyst for GasBuddy, a service that tracks gasoline prices and outages.

    DeHaan says there is plenty of gasoline in the region, but getting it from distribution terminals to stations is a challenge.

    He says the situation is exacerbated because "everyone wants it at the same time."

    By midday Wednesday, 5 percent of stations in North Carolina were out, including 10 percent of those in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham. In South Carolina, 2 percent of stations had run out and in Virginia, 1 percent.

    DeHaan says truck stops and major chains with bigger supply systems are more likely to have gas than small stations.

    ___

    1:15 p.m.

    A program that provides health care benefits to military families and retirees is making it easier to get care during evacuations related to Hurricane Florence.

    The Defense Health Agency announced in a new release on Wednesday that it is waiving referral requirements for TRICARE beneficiaries under mandatory evacuation orders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

    TRICARE says this means beneficiaries from 40 counties in those states may see a provider in any location without a referral from their primary care provider.

    The waiver is in effect until Sept. 21. TRICARE says it has about 1.5 million beneficiaries in the Carolinas and Virginia.

    ___

    1:10 p.m.

    Airlines are starting to cancel more flights as Hurricane Florence approaches the Southeast coast.

    At midday Wednesday, tracking service FlightAware said more than 400 U.S. flights scheduled for Thursday had been canceled, most of them in the Southeast.

    In Wilmington, North Carolina, four-fifths of Thursday's departures have been scrapped. Anywhere from about one-third to more than half of departures have been canceled in Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

    The numbers are sure to rise as airlines begin cutting flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Airlines typically wait until about 24 hours before takeoff before canceling a flight.

    Delta Air Lines says it's adding about 1,000 seats on flights to and from the Southeast for people trying to flee the storm.

    ___

    1 p.m.

    Residents of South Carolina who thought they were going to be safe from Hurricane Florence are now rushing to prepare after a slight change in the forecast.

    Current forecast models have the hurricane shifting south. Previously, North Carolina was forecast to be more at risk.

    “Mandatory Evacuation”
    Kure Beach Fire Department warning resident to leave before #hurricaneflorence hits. People told to leave by 8pm. Some models have the eye of hurricane coming ashore at this beach. EM director said don’t count on immediate police or fire help if you stay. pic.twitter.com/icUpBiS4un

    — Ken (@kenlemonWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    Chris Pennington was boarding up the windows of his Myrtle Beach house late Wednesday morning after noticing that the latest forecast has Florence coming inland nearly over his home.

    Pennington says he is still leaning toward staying put, but that he'll keep a really close eye on the weather and leave by Thursday afternoon if necessary.

    He says one reason for staying is that his wife would be available to help if needed at the local animal hospital where she works.

    ___

    12:50 p.m.

    President Donald Trump is urging those in the path of Hurricane Florence to act now to "get out of its way."

    Trump is telling residents, "Don't play games with it. It's a big one."

    It is imperative that everyone follow local evacuation orders. This storm is extremely dangerous. Be SAFE! #HurricaneFlorence https://t.co/94Ue4e26PD pic.twitter.com/KvF54CwomW

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2018

    The president made his comments in a videotaped message from the Rose Garden that he tweeted out on Wednesday morning.

    Trump says the federal government and first responders stand ready to assist, but even so, "bad things can happen when you're talking about a storm this size."

    Trump is telling people in the Carolinas and Virginia: "it's heading your way. ... Be ready and God be with you."

    ___

    12:35 p.m.

    The steady shift South that forecasters are expecting for Hurricane Florence has areas once thought to be in the clear worried. In Beaufort County, South Carolina, Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley told residents Wednesday that they need to prepare for the worst - just in case.

    Baxley says a direct hit from Florence could bring worse flooding than the state's great flood of 2015 after 10 inches of rain fell on parts of the county. The flooding closed several bridges and isolated big parts of the marshy, low lying county.

    South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced evacuations of Beaufort County on Monday, but then rescinded them the next day when forecasts appeared to be sending the storm into North Carolina.

    ___

    12:25 p.m.

    Forecasters say conditions are still good for already powerful Hurricane Florence to strengthen a little as it moves over very warm waters.

    Senior National Hurricane Center specialist Stacy Stewart says as the Category 4 Florence slows down and moves into shallower waters close to shore, the cooler sea temperatures and increasing contact with land will help reduce its strength.

    We have created a rumor control page for Hurricane #Florence that will be updated regularly. During disasters, it’s critical to avoid spreading false information. Always check with official sources before sharing. https://t.co/PAjGQZJ1Nt pic.twitter.com/z4L0r1YjAT

    — FEMA (@fema) September 12, 2018

    But in a forecast discussion on the center's website Wednesday, Stewart stressed the weaker winds will not diminish hazards from the storm.

    Stewart says the impacts of the storm will cover a wide area "regardless of exactly where the center of Florence moves."

    ___

    12:20 p.m.

    Some local school districts in the Charlotte area are closing in advance of Hurricane Florence.

    Lancaster County Schools announced that all schools will be closed Friday. Anson County Schools will be closed Thursday.

    [CLICK HERE for list of current closings]

    If you're looking for bread, you won't find it at the Super Target in Steele Creek @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/GXcUXD7vLe

    — Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    ___

    12:15 p.m.

    The Charlotte 49ers have announced that their Conference USA football opener vs. Old Dominion has been moved to Thursday at 4 p.m. due to the arrival of poor weather conditions expected this weekend from Hurricane Florence.

    ___

    12:10 p.m.

    Federal regulators are reviewing preparations for nuclear plants in the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence approaches the coast.

    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday said it's sending additional inspectors to plants in North and South Carolina and is activating its regional incident response center in Atlanta, to provide around-the-clock staff support during the storm.

    The NRC says Duke Energy's Brunswick nuclear plant south of Wilmington could face hurricane-force winds, major storm surges and heavy rain.

    Shrimpers are tying up! #Florence @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/1JGFdqPsXt

    — John Ahrens (@JohnAhrensWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    Duke says it has a procedure to begin shutting down plants at least two hours before the arrival of hurricane-force winds. Duke also operates three nuclear plants in South Carolina, though none are on the coast.

    ___

    12:05 a.m.

    U.S. Coast Guard crews in Charleston are making final preparations ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

    Capt. John Reed says the Coast Guard is asking people to heed evacuation orders and leave coastal areas. The Coast Guard says mariners shouldn't go out to sea in recreational boats and should use 911 and not social media to report life-threatening distress.

    .@USCG crews in #Charleston are making final preparations before #HurricaneFlorence makes landfall.
    Read more here: https://t.co/BjCviNScOE#Florence #Hurricane #USCG pic.twitter.com/Az67Q2Jpk1

    — USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) September 12, 2018

    Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered people in coastal areas including Charleston to evacuate the area ahead of the Category 4 storm. Reed says the Coast Guard will work with local officials as soon as it's safe to assess waterways and help anyone in distress.

    ___

    12 p.m.

    The mayor of Mount Pleasant, a town outside Charleston, is telling people to "take control of your destiny" and leave town now before Hurricane Florence arrives.

    Monstrous Hurricane #Florence seen churning toward the southeastern U.S. from the International Space Station: https://t.co/wF201zxJ43 pic.twitter.com/hjVDR9Appu

    — ABC News (@ABC) September 12, 2018

    Will Haynie urged residents on Wednesday to get out of the path of the massive and powerful Category 4 storm, the likes of which he said the area hasn't seen since 1989's Hugo. Haynie says local buses in the Charleston area will pick residents up and get them to shelters until 9 p.m. Wednesday.

    Haynie says residents "can take control of your destiny by getting of the way of this dangerous storm."

    ___

    11:55 a.m.

    North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is urging residents in evacuation zones to move to safety, saying the effects of Hurricane Florence are "only hours away."

    Cooper spoke at a news conference Wednesday morning with other emergency management officials. The governor said there's still time for coastal residents to evacuate if their home is at risk and time for others to finish preparing for the storm.

    Cooper says "disaster is at the doorstep, and it's coming in."

    Bread aisle at Walmart is empty days before Hurricane #Florence is expected to strike Wilmington, N.C., bringing potentially catastrophic flooding. https://t.co/859X0xEldW pic.twitter.com/fgAxBX8hMv

    — ABC News (@ABC) September 12, 2018

    The governor added that "a lot of people that might normally stay through a hurricane have recognized that this one is different."

    Shelters began opening Tuesday and more will open Wednesday.

    Cooper says state floodplain experts have been modeling the storm's projected impacts and found that from the storm surge alone, tens of thousands of structures are expected to be flooded.

    The governor also announced he had activated more National Guard soldiers. Emergency management officials said 3,000 would be on active duty by Wednesday evening, with more on standby.

    ___

    11:50 a.m.

    The mayor of Myrtle Beach says residents need to leave the area as soon as possible.

    Mayor Brenda Bethune said that seeing the storm's newly projected path toward her city was like "waking up to a sucker punch."

    For assistance with evacuation routes or road information, please call the SCDOT Call Center 855-GO-SCDOT (855-467-2368). We’re standing by to take your calls.
    Our Call Center remains open around the clock until further notice. #HurricaneFlorence pic.twitter.com/DYPOVjKnp8

    — SCDOT (@SCDOTPress) September 12, 2018

    To the city's roughly 32,000 residents, Bethune says Myrtle Beach "is not a place where you want to be" when the storm arrives.

    Myrtle Beach is one of the state's tourism centers. It is among coastal areas under mandatory evacuation orders by Gov. Henry McMaster. Bethune says she's particularly worried about projected storm surge from the storm, which has slowed down and could linger along South Carolina's coast, dumping inches of rain.

    Myrtle Beach- not too many people on the beach as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolinas coast. The preparations underway along the Grand Strand tonight on eyewitness news. pic.twitter.com/wigrLw8I79

    — Dave Faherty (@FahertyWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    ___

    11:45 a.m.

    Governor Cooper says every county and every person in the state needs to stay alert and take Hurricane Florence seriously.

    “Supplies of gas are pretty good,” Cooper said. “Gas stations had a run of 3-4 times the business they usually have, but business is continuing, and supplies are still available.”

    NEW: NC Gov. Roy Cooper: At least 16 shelters open to help those displaced by Hurricane #Florence; by this evening, 2,800 National Guard soldiers will be on active duty, with more on stand-by. https://t.co/438vqKokiT pic.twitter.com/MU2ctG5kop

    — ABC News (@ABC) September 12, 2018

    Cooper also said power plants are taking all necessary preparations to protect property and have staff ready to help people get power back after the storm.

    “Our federal partners are promising us that we will have what we need to get through this storm, and we are going to hold them to that. We have had a great relationship with FEMA in the past and we expect that to continue.”

    The governor said hospitals and long-term care facilities need to activate emergency protocols if they haven’t already. Prisons in Florence’s path have also undergone emergency protocols.

    Shelters will open for those who need it at:
    East Mecklenburg HS
    South Mecklenburg HS
    North Mecklenburg HS
    Olympic HS
    Audrey Kell HS
    The shelters will be staffed by @RedCross with support from partners.

    — CMPD News (@CMPD) September 12, 2018

    ___

    11:35 a.m.

    The North Carolina director of emergency management, Mike Sprayberry, said search and rescue task forces and other assets are staged and stand ready to react.

    FEMA officials said they are ready for the storm and to support North Carolina where needed.

    Shrimpers preparing their vessels near N. Topsail #HurricaneFlorence #9RadarReady #StormCam pic.twitter.com/Q2eiowuSSG

    — WSOCTV (@wsoctv) September 12, 2018

    Sprayberry said they are working with an Army Corps of Engineers team that is monitoring high hazard dams.

    “Dam safety personnel are monitoring water levels closely,” he said. “Breaches will be reported so immediate action can be taken.”

    NEW: FEMA releases full list of federal activity in preparation for Hurricane #Florence.

    “If you are told to evacuate and do not do so, you need to realize you are putting your life in danger,” FEMA chief Brock Long says. https://t.co/859X0xEldW pic.twitter.com/TJAJsLjVlO

    — ABC News (@ABC) September 12, 2018

    ___

    11:30 a.m.

    Firefighters near Kure Beach have called a meeting to decide whether to move up the area’s evacuation time.

    The fire department called the meeting Wednesday before noon.

    Residents were originally told they had until 8 p.m. to evacuate, but officials said worsening conditions may change that.

    Several people have already boarded up businesses and placed sandbags at their front doors.

    Downtown businesses in Wilmington are starting to or already boarded up. @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/JDtkC0cVMJ

    — Chris Johnson (@chrisWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    Channel 9 spoke to a woman who plans to stay despite strong warnings to leave.

    “I mean do you seek higher ground? Or do you go somewhere and get stuck in a flood like what happened in Lumberton last year?” Pleasure Island resident Cindy Lindille said. “I mean there were folks that went weeks and weeks and had no food.”

    Officials said residents should not stay, but if they do, they should plan on being without water and without power for seven days.

    ___

    11:25 a.m.

    North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned the public that although the track of Hurricane Florence has shifted slightly to the south, they should still prepare for the worst.

    “North Carolina is about to face the power of Florence,” he said. “The time to prepare is almost over. My message is clear: Disaster is at the doorstep and is coming in. If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely. If you are not under an evacuation order, finish your preparations today.”

    North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper cautioned that high winds and floodwaters could knock power out "for several days if not longer." https://t.co/f8Jj5sDsyx pic.twitter.com/75O0sR11oo

    — ABC News (@ABC) September 12, 2018

    Cooper said the storm will produce rain that may last for days instead of hours. Heavy winds are likely and thousands of structures are expected to be flooded.

    “At least 16 shelters are open at this time,” the governor said. “2,800 soldiers will be on active duty, joined by even more on standby. They will be taking life-saving measures and will be responsible for clearing roads in the areas they are stationed in.”

    Shelters are continuing to open across North Carolina. An updated list of shelters can be found here: https://t.co/QbQMXXCFYh pic.twitter.com/R5OPjklitI

    — Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) September 12, 2018

    ___

    11:20 a.m.

    Public works crews in Lancaster County are busy digging out clogged storm drains and pipes ahead of Florence, in hopes of minimizing street flooding.

    Right now. Public works crews in Lancaster County are busy digging out clogged storm drains and pipes ahead of Florence. They’re hoping to minimize street flooding. pic.twitter.com/lLLAUNPLcx

    — Greg Suskin (@GSuskinWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    ___

    11:05 a.m.

    Forecasters say Hurricane Florence is generating enormous waves, as high as 83 feet as it makes its way toward the East Coast.

    The National Hurricane Center says the waves were measured by satellite.

    The huge waves are being produced because currents are trapped by very strong winds moving in the same direction the storm's motion.

    Chief Putney tells reporters the public safety agencies in Mecklenburg County are prepared for situations like #Florence and will work together to care for our community. pic.twitter.com/BBJqnWm0ng

    — CMPD News (@CMPD) September 12, 2018

    ___

    11 a.m.

    Forecasters say Hurricane Florence is expected to steadily slow down as it makes its way toward the East Coast.

    At 11 a.m., the storm was centered 485 miles southeast of Wilmington, moving at 15 mph.

    It's a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm with 130 mph maximum sustained winds.

    Some strengthening is forecast through Wednesday night, drawing energy from the warm water. Its winds could approach Category 5 strength, which means winds of 157 mph or higher.

    As family and friends board up this restaurant, they do it with a heavy heart as tomorrow is the 1yr anniversary of the owner passing away. They say they will ride out the storm together knowing he will be with them. @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/WGZZy6eWAX

    — Chris Johnson (@chrisWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac was expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba. Hurricane Helene was expected to weaken over the eastern Atlantic. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.

    ___

    10:50 a.m.

    The 11 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center says Florence is still moving northwest at 15 mph, with maximum sustained winds at 130 mph.

    .@kmondayWSOC9 says the eye of #HurricaneFlorence is roughly 40 miles wide but the entire storm system is more than 600 miles wide! @wsoctv

    — Allison Latos (@AllisonWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    The Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft found that little has changed with the Category 4 storm. Life-threatening storm surge and rainfall is expected across large portions of the Carolinas.

    ___

    10:45 a.m.

    Forecasters said Wednesday that Florence's wind field is expanding, making it a large, stable hurricane with a clearly defined eye at its center.

    National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warns that a slight shift in Florence's forecast track does not mean that some communities north of the storm are now in the clear.

    As many as 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate across South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

    "Today is your last day to get out of the areas that have been placed under evacuation orders," FEMA chief Brock Long says. https://t.co/f8Jj5sDsyx pic.twitter.com/sa7R9G040f

    — ABC News (@ABC) September 12, 2018

    The "cone of error" in the forecast track only predicts where the storm's center might go, and even on its edges, winds can push a powerful storm surge into shore dozens of miles from where Florence's eyewall strikes land.

    As Graham says, "just because you have a landfall to your south doesn't mean you're out of the woods, because the winds are huge around this system."

    ___

    10:30 a.m.

    Charlotte officials detailed how they’re getting ready to respond to the storm as it heads toward our area.

    Officials with the fire department, MEDIC, police, schools and emergency management laid out their plans.

    They said people should check on their neighbors and family, and for those that are forced to evacuate, five schools will be open, and no one will be turned away.

    “There are going to be life or death situations in Charlotte over the next few days,” Councilman Braxton Winston said. “If you look at the trend, every day, every hour we’re expecting to get more and more impact. Those are best-case scenarios, to my understanding, so this is a serious event.”

    ___

    10:15 a.m.

    Cabarrus County is ending fair operations early in preparation for the impact of Hurricane Florence. The last day of the 2018 Cabarrus County Fair is today. The fair is open from 4-10 p.m.

    Cabarrus County Fair will shut down after tonight due to #Florence. Was supposed to run through Saturday. pic.twitter.com/peMNcZyhuq

    — Michael Stolp (@StolpWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    The early closure will provide adequate time to safely break down equipment before potential weather conditions deteriorate, said Cabarrus County Fair Manager Kate Sharpe.

    “We must consider the safety of our visitors, volunteers, county staff, Powers Midway workers and other vendors and exhibitors,” said Sharpe. “There are extra considerations that must be made to tear down safely within the narrowing timeframe.”

    Gardner-Webb University also announced that classes would be canceled beginning Thursday at 8 a.m.

    ___

    9:30 a.m.

    Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was imperative locals heed the evacuation warnings.

    He says the time to flee Hurricane Florence is now. Landfall was expected sometime late Thursday and FEMA officials said Wednesday was the last day for people to get out safely.

    "Today's the day," he said. "It's time for our citizens to be a part of the team. Heed those warnings and evacuate if you're in one of the zones."

    Byard told a news conference at FEMA headquarters in Washington that the agency has all the resources it needs to react to the natural disaster.

    "We could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens." Massive Hurricane #Florence seen from the International Space Station: https://t.co/9jhcrA9Vj7 pic.twitter.com/g2t8hyzZz1

    — ABC News (@ABC) September 12, 2018

    ___

    9:20 a.m.

    The National Hurricane Center and computer models have shifted the forecast track for Hurricane Florence noticeably to the south and west, but it doesn't mean northern North Carolina is in the clear.

    The official track has Florence hovering off the southern North Carolina coast from Thursday night until landfall Saturday morning or so, then veering south through South Carolina and Georgia into Monday.

    Meteorology director Jeff Masters at the private Weather Underground says Florence will come "roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland.'"

    Everyone has to be off Wrightsville Beach by 8pm tonight. Spoke to this family who have lived at their home for 3 yrs and on the beach for 20. The father is expecting his whole garage to be flooded. @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/cOvZ0EInw0

    — Chris Johnson (@chrisWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    If these projections hold, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy says "it's exceptionally bad news, as it smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge." McNoldy says "the rainfall has been and continues to be a very substantial threat over the entire area."

    ___

    8:55 a.m.

    The mayor of Charleston, which is in the path of powerful Hurricane Florence is warning citizens to get out or stay "at your own peril."

    Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg told CNN on Wednesday that the nearly 135,000 residents of his historic coastal city should leave now before the storm arrives later in the week.

    Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered evacuations in counties along the state's coast, including Charleston. All lanes of Interstate 26 are westbound to allow more people to leave the coast and head inland toward the state capital of Columbia.

    This morning, a high definition camera outside of the @Space_Station captured a stark and sobering view of #HurricaneFlorence as it churned across the Atlantic with winds of 130 miles an hour. Take a closer look: https://t.co/IWZCzy2ZLV pic.twitter.com/9gIJ8PA8ng

    — NASA (@NASA) September 12, 2018

    Tecklenburg said his flood-prone city is preparing for "copious rain" by clearing out the city's drainage system and getting boats and portable pumps ready. Many areas in the low-lying city flood with routine rain storms, causing street closures and detours.

    ___

    8:30 a.m.

    The National Weather Service says Hurricane Florence "will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast."

    #HurricaneFlorence is very large and incredibly dangerous.

    ✅Follow local evacuation orders!
    ✅Prepare for life-threatening, catastrophic flooding over portions of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states late this week into early next week. pic.twitter.com/IWlJYKOZBS

    — NWS (@NWS) September 12, 2018

    That's saying a lot, given the impacts from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew.

    Forecasters in Wilmington are emphasizing the potential for what they're calling "unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding."

    With predicted rainfall measured in feet not inches, forecasters say people living along creeks and rivers in the Carolinas should move to higher ground well ahead of the storm's arrival.

    NOW: The Salvation Army [Charlotte] is getting their mobile unit ready for deployment to Conway, SC. They will be able to serve 1,600 meals/day out of this truck. @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/5YLxqVKN5a

    — Gina Esposito (@GinaWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    ___

    8:35 a.m.

    Southwest Airlines intends to suspend operations at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport around midday Thursday. The Airline has canceled all flights in and out of Charlotte through Friday night due to Hurricane Florence.

    ___

    8 a.m.

    The 8 a.m. forecast on Hurricane Florence reinforces projections that the storm's path will shift slightly to the southeast as it closes in on the Carolinas.

    The center of the Category 4 Hurricane, still swirling with top winds of 130 mph, was about 530 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, approaching the coast at 17 mph.

    Today is the LAST day to prep for #HurricaneFlorence. Strong winds are expected as early as Thursday morning along the SC/NC coasts. We have two requests for our followers:
    1) Share this message.
    2) Show/tell us how you're preparing.
    Use #WeatherReady so we can share your story. pic.twitter.com/NZP0gFYTB0

    — NWS (@NWS) September 12, 2018

    National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says damaging winds and rain could begin hitting the coast late Thursday, pushing a storm surge that could reach 13 feet in places. Rain will continue through Sunday, dumping feet of water over a wide area.

    ___

    7 a.m.

    President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that FEMA, first responders and law enforcement are supplied and ready for Hurricane Florence.

    pic.twitter.com/54YVC4DDfe

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2018

    ___

    6 a.m.

    The National Hurricane Center now says a life-threatening storm surge is highly likely along portions of the coastlines of South Carolina and North Carolina. A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for the coastline.

    This is a "spaghetti plot" of the models for #Florence. You see where they turn grey? That's the longer range outlook into the weekend through early next week. The individual lines don't matter, but the consensus is farther south. This may delay how quickly we see impacts here. pic.twitter.com/8aKa6pTm9s

    — Keith Monday (@kmondayWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    In addition, catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding is likely to happen over portions of the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states from late this week into early next week, as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.

    Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the Carolina coast, and a Hurricane Warning is in effect.

    Fly with us INTO the eye of #HurricaneFlorence
    See the full story tomorrow (WED 9/12) morning on @AMHQ and all day long on The @WeatherChannel on cable.
    Thanks to @53rdWRS Hurricane Hunters for the ride of my life. pic.twitter.com/alUVQvYMJv

    — Dave Malkoff (@malkoff) September 12, 2018

    Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast will continue this week, resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents.

    ___

    5 a.m.

    The 5 a.m. advisory on Hurricane Florence shows not much has changed on the storm's approach to the Carolina coast, but the tail end of the track has shifted south.

    The storm may hug the coastline longer, delaying the onset of rain and wind in the Charlotte region until Saturday.

    Track update for #Florence at 5 am hasn't changed much heading into the coast, BUT, the tail end of the track has shifted south. The storm may hug the coastline longer, delaying the onset of the rain and wind here until later Saturday. pic.twitter.com/QWGjaVL376

    — WSOCWeather (@WSOCWeather) September 12, 2018

    The storm is centered 575 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph. Strengthening is forecast through Wednesday.

    It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph or higher.

    #Florence looks fairly well organized this morning. Some minor fluctuations in strength are expected today, but it remains a very dangerous category 4 storm. Latest impacts here in Charlotte ahead on Channel 9 through 7 am. pic.twitter.com/aghf3Qmd5T

    — Keith Monday (@kmondayWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

    ___

    4:30 a.m.

    Channel 9 reporter Dave Faherty is in New Bern, North Carolina, where there is a lot of concern about storm surge.

    The Nueces River is very close to the downtown area where preparations are underway Wednesday morning in anticipation of Florence. Many of the stores were already boarded up.

    Sunrise in New Bern. Tomorrow will be a lot different here and along the coast. pic.twitter.com/BybdTbavkP

    — Dave Faherty (@FahertyWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    Faherty was with families Tuesday night as they went to work trying to protect their businesses -- some which have been there for more than 100 years. Already, there are sandbags out in the downtown area where residents are worried about flooding.

    Some of the hotels are preparing to close Wednesday morning over concerns about the storm surge and heavy rain.

    Tropical Storm Watches are set up just outside our viewing area this morning. These could expand west later today (especially into Chesterfield and Richmond counties.) pic.twitter.com/NG8saGi8Vo

    — Keith Monday (@kmondayWSOC9) September 12, 2018

    Local forecasts call for as much as 18-24 inches of rain in the area, with the possibility of tornadoes.

    ___

    2:20 a.m.

    The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to portions of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states.

    At 2 a.m., the storm was centered 625 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph. Strengthening is forecast through Wednesday. It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph or higher.

    Here are the key messages on Hurricane #Florence as of 11pm EDT. The latest full advisory is available on https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb and information specific to your area can be found at https://t.co/SiZo8ozBbn pic.twitter.com/RQgHxhJW7G

    — National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 12, 2018

    Forecasters say the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday, and approach the coast of the Carolinas in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday.


    Severe Weather Center 9 says the storm may make landfall between Morehead City and Wilmington late Thursday night into Friday morning. 

    Stay updated on the storm and its latest track by downloading our weather app.



    Channel 9 will have continuing coverage of Hurricane Florence and its potential impacts along the Carolina coast.

    To receive the latest hurricane alerts, download the WSOCTV news app and tap the blue "Hurricanes" tag.


    >> Click the image below to download the WSOC weather app

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