Hurricane Florence has weakened to a Category 2 storm in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the 11 p.m. projection by the National Hurricane Center.
Florence likely won’t restrengthen into a Category 3 before making landfall near the South Carolina-North Carolina border, making it is no longer a major hurricane, according to the latest forecast from Channel 2 Action News chief meteorologist Glenn Burns.
“A tremendous amount of wind shear is now interacting with the storm, and it is just shutting everything down,” Burns said.
The latest forecast shows the storm sustaining 110-mph winds and gusts of 130 mph, and it’s within 300 miles of the North Carolina coast, according to the NHC. It’s approximately 280 miles southeast of Wilmington and 325 miles southeast of Myrtle Beach.
Burns said Florence’s proximity is land is too close for it to restrengthen.
“It won’t allow it to develop any further, so it’ll remain a Category 2 and may become a Category 1 before making landfall,” Burns said. “The storm is going out of balance.”
However, projections are continually updating as the storm gets closer to the coast, and the storm’s path remains fluid.
That means Georgia could still be at risk, and the Associated Press reported that some earlier forecasts showed a more southerly route.
The NHC said there remains a chance eastern Georgia could observe tropical storm force winds and heavy rainfall resulting from Florence.
Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for all of Georgia on Wednesday, citing concerns about high winds and torrential rain.
“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence,” said Deal, who added that residents should "be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas.”
President Donald Trump spoke with Deal on Wednesday to receive storm updates, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
The NHC has issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for parts of South Carolina and North Carolina, where the center of the storm is expected to hit as early as Thursday.
A weakening system could reach northeast Georgia by late Sunday, Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said.
Coastal Georgia officials did not order anyone to evacuate, but they have urged residents to stock up on supplies and remain aware of updates in Florence’s projections as it approaches.
“Based on what we are seeing, we don’t feel the evacuation order is needed for this particular event,” Dennis Jones, Chatham County’s director of emergency management, told reporters at a news conference.
Burns said Georgia is luckily on the west side of Florence, which historically produces less severe weather.
“If there’s a better side to be on with a tropical weather system, (Georgia) is on it,” Burns said. “The west side is always the better side. The east side contains the area where the outer bands could produce tornadoes and torrential rains.”
Early data indicates the storm could dump as much as 15 to 25 inches of rain, with 40 inches of accumulation possible along the coast.
Officials say Florence could be the most catastrophic storm to hit the Carolinas in decades. Mandatory evacuation orders took effect Tuesday in parts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, prompting Atlanta Motor Speedway to open its camping facilities to evacuees. Those states, as well as Maryland, have also declared states of emergency.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for many coastal areas in Virginia, and hurricane warnings are in effect for many South and North Carolina rivers.
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“Because this storm is moving so slowly (and) will be hanging around the coast 24 to 36 hours, that is at some point going to correlate with some high tides,” Nitz said. “That is going to cause the catastrophic, devastating damage along the beaches.”
MORE: Where is Florence now?
Conditions along the South Carolina-North Carolina coast will rapidly deteriorate starting late Wednesday, Channel 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said.
Hurricane and storm surge watches are in effect from Edisto Beach north to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.
“This is going to send enormous waves, beach erosion, rip currents all along the East Coast,” Monahan said. “This will come in along the Carolinas, but the impacts are going to be wide-reaching all along the East Coast.”
Thirty- to 40-foot waves at the coast and flooding are concerns, Monahan said.
Flood waters could reach heights of 2 to 8 feet above ground in some places. The deepest water is expected along the immediate coast in the path of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by “large and destructive waves,” according to the Hurricane Center.
Even beyond the coast, flooding could be significant if Florence stalls and dumps huge amounts of rain over the Appalachian Mountains and as far away as West Virginia, Monahan said. Flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous conditions are possible.
More than 1,600 people spent Tuesday night in 36 Red Cross and community shelters in North Carolina and South Carolina, according to the agency.
Monahan said Florence could do what Hurricane Harvey did last year over Texas, dumping days of rain, although he said the flooding won’t be quite that scale.
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