He said he expects flooding to be “catastrophic,” and some areas have already gotten over a foot of rain.
The storm is sustaining winds over 90 mph with gusts up to 120 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center's 11 p.m. update. The report also said "little change in strength is expected before Florence moves inland on Friday."
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This is a photo of the storm surge near Atlantic Beach, N.C. (Photo: The Associated Press)
Warnings for hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surges remain in place up and down the Carolina coast. The storm surge threat has not diminished at all, according to Channel 2.
“Despite the fact that those maximum sustained winds have gone down a little bit, the storm surge threat has not,” Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brad Nitz said.
Storm surges have the potential to reach 9 to 13 feet. At 11 p.m., the NHC cancelled its storm surge watch north of Duck, N.C.
A storm surge of 10 feet has been reported by the Morehead City, N.C. National Weather Service, the NHC said.
Sustained winds in excess of 41 mph have been reported in Wilmington, N.C., as the storm moved 85 miles southeast of the city, Channel 2 reported.
Winds in excess of 83 mph have been reported in Cape Lookout, N.C., and gusts have been recorded as strong as 101 mph, the NHC reported at 10 p.m.
The storm, which is nearly the size of North Carolina itself, features winds that extend 80 miles from its center, according to the NHC.
The Hurricane Center upgraded the tropical storm watch to a tropical storm warning for north of the North Carolina-Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, Va., and for the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
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The Hurricane Center said there remains a chance eastern Georgia could observe tropical storm-force winds and heavy rainfall.
As of the latest model Thursday, Nitz said he does not anticipate much wind impact in North Georgia.
“Some showers likely for the eastern half of North Georgia in particular,” he said. “West Georgia may get little to no rain from this, so quite a range.”
Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for all of Georgia on Wednesday, citing concerns about high winds and torrential rain.
The University of Georgia moved up Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee to noon due to the storm system.
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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. Those states, as well as Maryland, have also declared states of emergency.