Hurricane Florence pictures: First pictures as Florence approaches North Carolina

A guest wipes a tear among names at the edge of the south reflecting pool at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum during ceremonies marking the 17th anniversary of the

Hurricane Florence pictures: First pictures as Florence approaches North Carolina

Florence, now a Category 2 hurricane, is forecast to unleash extreme storm surge, possibly historic flooding rains, and damaging winds in the Carolinas beginning Thursday. Despite the downgrade from Category 4 to Category 2, authorities warned that Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land.

And while the millions affected finalize their emergency plans, try to, um, shoot the weather into submission (please don't do this), and hopefully take the official advice to get the hell out of its path, even more have been watching Florence's trajectory and forecast via online tracker sites and apps.

Storm surges up to 3.9 meters (13 feet), the possibility of tornados and nearly a meter of rain in some areas of North and SC were expected when Hurricane Florence makes landfall late Thursday.

NHC tropical cyclone forecast track for Hurricane Florence 11 a.m. EDT Thursday.

Still, there are several other North and SC airports in the storm's path.

People in areas vulnerable to the risky hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm.

As of 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, 862 flights had been canceled in the USA and 11,917 flights across the globe were delayed, as per live flight-tracking service FlightAware.

We are holding out hope for all of those who are in the path of the storm, but for any of you who aren't convinced that Florence has the potential to be deadly, then look no further than this live streaming video from the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, where the sky has darkened and the waves are crashing violently.

As of 8 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said Florence was centered about 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 220 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That means Florence's powerful winds will drive a more-destructive storm surge as it makes landfall. Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland.

Some bars pride themselves on staying open no matter how strong the winds and rains outside, but Florence - expected to be the most powerful hurricane in decades - is proving just too risky. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles. "I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas".

Higher sea levels to make a storm surge worse.

Over the weekend, remnants of Florence, are expected to move up the Appalachians. Cape Fear Wine and Beer was due to close its doors when the storm hits Wilmington, a picturesque town just in from the coast.

Nevertheless, torrential rain will be moving ashore Thursday, continuing into Friday, and dumping one or perhaps even two feet of rain in some areas.

And if Florence weren't enough, other storms out there are threatening people. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands face possible isolated amounts of 3 inches. A third high-pressure system over the central US pushed the cyclone south and could contribute to its stalling, which could result in a situation similar to what happened in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey hovered over Houston and devastated it with massive rains and flooding. Forecasters say that the same type of storm surge expected earlier should still be expected.

Another disturbance is swirling around in the Gulf of Mexico.

To back up that point, Graham cited a sobering statistic: "50 percent of the fatalities in these tropical systems is the storm surge - and that's not just along the coast". The NHC is encouraging officials in northeastern Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to monitor its progress.

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