URGENT INFO: Lowndes County Prepares for Hurricane Florence

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Wooden planks boarding up windows, sandbags lining the edge of the placid-for-now ocean: locals of one seaside resort in North Carolina are maintaining relative calm as they gird for Hurricane Florence - an attitude somewhat masking their anxiety, as the potentially catastrophic storm closes in on them.

Hurricane Florence has now been downgraded to a Category 2 force, but there are fears that could ramp up in strength once again as it moves over warmer waters.

Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches (one meter) of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and SC.

"We could maybe get some outer bands or very, very outer bands of the hurricane", said Jeremy Geiger, a weather service meteorologist.

Florence continued to weaken overnight but it's still a hurricane and will likely maintain that status when it reaches the shoreline, though not as Category 3 or 4 - perhaps not even as a Category 2.

The deadliest and most destructive element of any hurricane, the storm surge from Florence could flood tens of thousands of structures, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday.

In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged people to remain away from home despite forecast changes showing Florence's path largely missing the state.

Florence's expanse has even captured the attention of the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station, who have been tweeting pictures of the storm back to Earth. "While we can't attribute this hurricane exclusively to climate change, we do expect these types of intense hurricanes to happen more often as the world warms".

Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 485 km ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swath from SC to OH and Pennsylvania could get deluged.

For statewide storm updates, North Carolina residents can download the Ready NC app.

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"While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is forecast to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane as it approaches the USA coast".

Hurricane Helene is moving north, where it's expected to become a tropical storm on Thursday.

"They told me to bring a pillow and blanket", Whisler said.

Parts of the Carolinas could experience hurricane-force winds for 24 hours or more, said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "But it's moving at a steady clip and baring down on some pretty vulnerable parts of North Carolina".

North Carolina has had this problem before.

"I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful", Trump said Tuesday, adding that he thought the storms that hit the island were "probably the hardest" thus far due to "the island nature".

North and SC and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week. Mandatory evacuations of almost 2 million coastal residents in the Carolinas and Virginia continued Wednesday.

For anyone hoping that Hurricane Florence will be the only major hurricane of the season, residents of the east coast won't be so lucky.

He continued: "Florence was downgraded today... but the storm more than 300 miles wide is expected to pick up strength over the warm waters of the Atlantic, before making landfall".