Hurricane Florence still poses grave threat despite weakened winds

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Florence is now been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane, is expected to make landfall in the US, Thursday as an "extremely dangerous" hurricane according to the National Hurricane Center.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said damaging winds and rain could begin hitting the coast late Thursday, pushing a storm surge that could reach 13 feet in places.

Florence was located about 325 miles (520 km) east-southeast of Myrtle beach, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour (175 km per hour), the Miami, Florida-based weather forecaster said.

Global News is on the ground in the storm-impacted areas and will be providing updates in the live blog below.

By contrast, North Carolina has said it is evacuating hundreds of prisoners from prisons and county jails before the storm, the Charlotte Observer reports.

Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the state of Georgia: "in light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall".

The hurricane is expected to dump heavy rain throughout the region and FEMA officials said it's not just a coastal problem.

"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Authorities in Chatham County, Georgia, which borders SC and includes the historic port city of Savannah, urged residents who feel unsafe "to evacuate as they see fit".

Florence is forecast to dump up to three feet (almost a meter) of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and SC.

Though Florence won't be making landfall until Friday, tropical-storm-force winds - 39 to 73 miles per hour (63 to 117 km/h) - will begin whipping through coastal regions as early as tomorrow, making it exceptionally unsafe to be outside, Graham said.

Up to 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate across South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

The forecast Wednesday afternoon reinforced projections that the storm's path will shift slightly to the southeast as it closes in on North Carolina and SC.

"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said. Most other beachgoers were long done. "If they're telling you to leave, you have to leave", Graham said.

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