Its wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph), reducing it from a Category 4 storm to a Category 2, and additional fluctuations and weakening were likely as it swirled toward land.
Hurricane Florence is churning slowly towards the southern parts of the eastern seaboard and could slam into the Carolinas by tomorrow night bringing sweeping winds of more than 200km per hour and dumping rain that could cause coastal erosion and a major storm surge.
As of 8 p.m., the storm was centered 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 16 mph (26 kph).
And Florence remained capable of unleashing rain-fueled catastrophic flooding of rivers and low-lying areas across a wide region. "Disaster is at the doorstep and it's coming in". But forecasters say there's an increased chance for tropical storm winds to reach Savannah.
Downpours and flooding would be especially severe, lasting for days, if the storm stalls over land.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses could be flooded in North Carolina alone, Governor Cooper warned.
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A state of emergency has also been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.
As of Tuesday, more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
By late last night, authorities in North Carolina reported almost 7,000 evacuees staying in 71 emergency shelters throughout the state.
Even with some weakening that's predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a risky major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said. It could stall just off the coast and then drift south along the SC coast and possibly make a landfall as a weaker system if it doesn't make it clearly over the coast of North Carolina.
In addition to inundating the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 4 metres along the Carolina coast, Florence could dump 51-76 cm of rain, with up to 102 cm in parts of North Carolina, the NHC said. In South Carolina, close to the Georgia line, Beaufort County emergency chief Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case.
It has Hanover County Commissioner Woody White very anxious.