Dangerous Hurricane Florence edged closer yesterday to delivering a powerful blow to the east coast of the USA, with forecasters warning of life-threatening rainfall and flooding even as it weakened to a Category 2 storm.
It diminished from hurricane force as it came ashore, but forecasters said the 350-mile-wide storm's slow progress across North and SC could leave much of the region under water in the coming days.
The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm's center reaching the coast Friday.
State and federal officials have frequently urged residents in the target zone to evacuate but there was resistance along the coast.
"These are folks who made a decision to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", she said.
In addition to the dangers the expected deluge of water poses, the hurricane center cautioned, "A few tornadoes are possible in eastern North Carolina beginning late Thursday morning".
The storm looked likely to make landfall on the coast of North and SC but heavy rain was also expected in Virginia to the north and Georgia to the south.
It is unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC, where some areas could see as much as one metre of rain, to Virginia.
A crew of about 80 rescuers from Montgomery County is headed to SC to help deal with Hurricane Florence and its aftermath.
Forecasters have adjusted Hurricane Florence's projected path, saying that after it makes landfall, it is likely to take a more southerly route than expected.
People fleeing coastal North and SC clogged highways Wednesday as Florence bore down for a direct hit in the low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.
The blasting wind and surging water may also damage some of the 16 nuclear reactors located in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Florence is the most risky of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.
Even miles away from the Atlantic, North Carolina residents in low-lying areas are boarding up and emptying stores.
Hurricane Florence has inundated U.S. coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say conditions will only worsen as the hulking storm slogs inland.
Some areas are expected to see between 20 and 30 inches of rain through early next week in the area shaded in purple in the second image above. She said it will become a "major flooding event".
Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.
NHC Director Ken Graham warned that rivers up to 60km inland may flood.
At the White House, President Donald Trump both touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way of Florence.