Hurricane Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kilometres per hour) to 110 mph (175 kph) as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early Thursday, reducing the storm from Category 4 to Category 2.
However, forecasters warned that the enormous wind field has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land.
As of 5 a.m. EDT (0900g) it was centered about 205 miles (325 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 250 miles (450 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).
The National Hurricane Center's best guess was that Florence's eye would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line.
Then, it will likely hover along the coast Saturday, pushing up to 13 feet (nearly 4 metres) of storm surge and dumping 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimetres) of rain on both states, before slogging over the Appalachian Mountains.
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