Hurricane Florence seen maintaining strength as it approaches coast: NHC

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"I'm anxious about what I might find when I go home, though", she said.

The water starts at her feet, rising behind her to three feet and "coming up my shins towards my waist", then to six feet and finally to nine feet, dwarfing her as she warns of the storm surge.

City officials in one North Carolina community sent out an ominous tweet sometime around 2 a.m. Friday.

Little change in strength is expected before the eye of Florence reaches the Carolina coast, with slow weakening expected after the center moves inland or meanders near the coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The National Hurricane Center described Florence's path as a wobble around southeastern North Carolina.

Florence could threaten the largest rainfall event in US history, Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 whirlwind that settled over Texas and dropped more than 60 inches of rain, turning roadways into rivers, destroying homes and buildings and killing almost 90 people.

High winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., September 14, 2018.

Florence's winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) earlier in the week, and the hurricane was downgraded from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2.

A spokesperson for the ABC affiliate said roads around the building were flooding.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the USA electricity sector has been well prepared for Hurricane Florence even as hundreds of thousands of homes lose power in the storm.

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The storm made landfall at Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached out 195 miles (315 kilometers).

The rising sea crept toward the two-story home of Tom Copeland, who lives on a spit of land surrounded by water in Swansboro.

As of 9 p.m. EST, North Carolina Emergency Management reported that 102,308 customers were without power - even before Florence made landfall.

Thousands of people hunkered down in schools, shelters and a coliseum in Winston-Salem.

Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.

More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and state of Virginia had been urged to evacuate.

There were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries, but authorities said more than 100 people were rescued further north in New Bern, where the downtown area of the city of 30,000 people was under water.

On Thursday, Trump faced criticism for disputing the official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricanes Maria and Irma that hit previous year. She said a hurricane has a way of bringing everyone to the same level.

Jen Kottyan, the avian collection and conservation manager for the zoo, said the ways the zoo is preparing are very similar to how people might brace for a storm at home: filling tubs with water for drinking and cleaning, making sure facilities are equipped with flashlights and batteries, and clearing drains to guard against flooding.

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