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Hurricane Florence is downgraded to a Cat 1, lashes North Carolina coast

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North Carolina coast was hit by Hurricane Florence

The outer bands of Hurricane Florence brings strong wind to North Carolina; Leland Vittert reports.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded late Thursday to a Category 1 hurricane, as the North Carolina coast was hit by hurricane-force winds and a life-threatening storm surge.

State officials are bracing for the worst. A torn American flag flying on a live surf camera in Frying pan Tower North Carolina, is proof of the strong gusts of wind pounding the coast.

“The hurricane-force wind” began hitting the state of the coast, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an 8 a.m. update.

The core of the storm is located about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, approximately 50 miles south of Morehead City (North Carolina), the NHC said.

Florence is moving northwest at 5 mph with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, the update said.

A sign at the Harbour View Inn in Chareston, South Carolina.

(AP Photo/Mic Smith)

“On the forecast track, the centre of Florence will approach the coasts of North and South Carolina, later tonight, then move or in the vicinity of the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina in the hurricane warning area by Friday,” the update said. “In slow-motion in parts of eastern and central South Carolina, the weather forecast Friday evening to Saturday evening.”

The storm is likely to bring significant rain to the Carolinas, where some places could see upwards of 20 cm, the update said. This is expected to lead to “catastrophic floods and long-term significant river flooding.”

#Florence is expected that this is a life-threatening storm surge to parts of eastern North And South Carolina, and catastrophic floods and long-term significant river flooding likely over parts of the Carolinas and the southern /central Appalachians. pic.twitter.com/j6HZco1Tsc

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 14, 2018

HURRICANE FLORENCE PATH: THE TRACK OF THE STORM HERE

The agency said a mix of storm surge and the tides could lead to flooding from rising water levels. Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, North Carolina could see as much as 7 to 11 feet of water, according to the update.

Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina on Thursday as the Hurricane Florence approaches of the field.

(Theo the Long/The News & Observer via AP)

Storm surge and hurricane warnings were in effect for South Santee River South Carolina to duck, North Carolina, as well as Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds in North Carolina, the agency said.

Areas of Edisto Beach to South Santee River in South Carolina were under both a storm surge and hurricane watch, while the areas located to the north of Duck, North Carolina, the state of the border with Virginia were under a flood watch, according to the update.

Hurricane Florence is expected to gradually weaken after the center, which meanders near the coast or moves inland, the update said.

AS HURRICANE FLORENCE APPROACHES, LIVE SURF CAM VIDEOS SHOW THE IMPACT ON THE CAROLINAS

The storm’s size and slow track can lead to significant damage in the area, forecasters predict.

Dunleavy’s Pub on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, wrote “open” on their boarded up windows.

(AP Photo/Mic Smith)

“It’s really about the whole size of the storm,” National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said. “The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact — and we have that.”

The hurricane was seen as a key test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, where officials closed nearly 3,000 people died.

Schools and businesses as far south as Georgia were closed, approximately 1,200 flights and counting were cancelled, and the coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied.

If you’re ready for Florence, you can read about the steps to prepare for the storm here and find emergency contacts here.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson, Zoe Szathmary and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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