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The Hurricane Center said although slow weakening is expected to begin by late Thursday, Florence is still forecast to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane when it nears the US coast. "Don't bet your life on riding out a monster".

Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 beast less than 24 hours ago, has weakened into a Category 2 storm as it nears landfall in the Carolinas, the National Weather Service said late Wednesday.

"This one really scares me", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said. He said the federal government is "absolutely, totally prepared" for Florence.

Early Wednesday afternoon in North Carolina, the storm was centered 700 kilometers (435 miles) off the coast, moving at 26 kph (16 mph) towards the USA coastline. "So Florence is kind of spreading out, becoming a much larger, more stable hurricane". In North Carolina, Cooper says, "2,800 soldiers will be on active duty, joined by even more on standby".

The storm made landfall on Friday near Wilmington, a city of about 120,000 squeezed between North Carolina's Atlantic coastline and the Cape Fear River. As of now, Florence is due to make landfall very early Friday morning, somewhere in the Carolinas. In South Carolina, Beaufort County Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said, "This hurricane is bringing more rain than any other hurricane", according to SCETV.

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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.

"There's very high confidence that Florence will reach the southern coast of North Carolina on Thursday night as a very unsafe major hurricane", meteorologist Bob Henson wrote on the website weatherunderground.com on Tuesday night.

The National Weather Service is forecasting heavy rainfall Sunday through Tuesday across central SC with flooding potential in the Upstate, northeast Georgia and the mountains of western North Carolina.

Rain measured in feet is "looking likely", he said.

More than 6,500 Carolinas-based workers are being joined by 1,400 workers from Duke Energy Midwest and 1,000 from Duke Energy Florida to respond to this storm. You never know, but we know. Tropical Storm Isaac was east of the Lesser Antilles and expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land. With that much size and strength, even a glancing blow could be devastating - something forecasters stressed as they noted the shift in the predicted track.


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