Florence Latest: Florence now a Category 2 storm, still dangerous

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Latest on Hurricane Florence (all times local):

View of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station (ISS) | Image Source: Alexander Gerst / NASA / MGN

11:00 p.m.

Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm but it is still considered an extremely dangerous and life-threatening storm.

As of 11 p.m., the storm was centered 280 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and was moving northwest at 17 mph. Its maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly to 110 mph.

The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening that the storm is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to the Carolinas as it approaches the coast Thursday and Friday.

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8:40 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence has canceled his planned trip to Georgia on Thursday because of the updated track of Hurricane Florence.

The vice president's office said Pence will remain in Washington to monitor the federal response to the hurricane.

Georgia's governor declared a state of emergency after new storm forecasts showed a more southerly threat to residents.

Pence had been scheduled to hold a campaign event for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp and stop by an American Red Cross disaster field supply center in Atlanta and address employees at the Delta TechOps facility.

President Donald Trump has canceled campaign events in Missouri and Mississippi this week because of the impending hurricane.

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8:40 p.m.

A South Carolina city in the projected path of Hurricane Florence has put a curfew into place for residents who remain.

The Myrtle Beach Chamber announced on Twitter Wednesday that the city had declared a curfew from 10 p.m. Wednesday through 6 a.m. Thursday. Officials said other coastal communities including Surfside Beach have implemented similar curfews.

Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the evacuation of much of South Carolina's coast as the state waits for the storm projected to come ashore in the Carolinas later this week.

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8 p.m.

Forecasters said that Hurricane Florence has slightly weakened but remains a potentially catastrophic Category 3 storm as it continues toward North and South Carolina.

The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening that the storm is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to the Carolinas as it approaches the coast Thursday and Friday.

As of 8 p.m., the storm was centered 335 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and was moving northwest at 16 mph. Its maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly to 115 mph.

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8 p.m.

President Donald Trump spent Wednesday monitoring federal preparations for Hurricane Florence's expected landfall in the Southeast.

The White House said Trump spoke with Sens. Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina to convey that the full support of the federal government stands ready to assist their states.

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7:10 p.m.

South Carolina is planning to end the reversal of some interstate lanes that were switched to help move people away from the state's coast as Hurricane Florence approaches.

Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith told reporters that, starting Thursday at 6 p.m., officers will close Interstate 26 lanes that had been switched from eastbound to westbound to move people away from the Charleston area toward the center of the state.

Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday ordered much of the state's coast evacuated and reversed eastbound lanes to help people leave. Smith says officers will begin closing down the reversed lanes and gradually switch traffic back to its regular patterns.

Many officers are on the road during lane reversals, manning each exit and ensuring drivers don't drive around barricades. The change allows agencies like Smith's to pull back their officers when tropical storm-force winds are expected to arrive in the state.

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7:10 p.m.

West Virginia agencies are mobilizing to respond to problems arising from Hurricane Florence.

The governor's office says in a news release the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management activated its emergency operations center Wednesday.

The statement says 50 National Guard members are prepared to assist in locations across the state. Nearly 70 tractor-trailer loads of supplies have arrived at the Guard's 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg.

In June 2016, a series of thunderstorms pelted a wide swath of West Virginia. Nine inches of rain fell in 36 hours in some areas, leaving 23 dead statewide and destroying thousands of homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

The National Weather Service forecast says up to 4 inches of rain is possible in parts of the state through next week.

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6:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump has urged those living in the path of Hurricane Florence to comply with all evacuation orders and emergency instructions.

Speaking Wednesday at the White House, Trump said: "protection of life is the absolute highest priority."

He warned that Florence could be "one of the biggest ever to hit the East Coast."

The storm is still a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph as it approaches the North and South Carolina coasts.

Trump said his administration has been in "close contact" with the state and local governments soon to be impacted by the massive storm.

The National Weather Service predicted that the hurricane will blow ashore Saturday morning along the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then push its rainy way westward, with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding.

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6:15 p.m.

Virginia officials are urging residents under a mandatory evacuation order not to return home, despite forecast changes showing Hurricane Florence's path largely missing the state.

Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that the storm's path is still unpredictable and residents who were ordered to evacuate beginning Tuesday should continue to stay away. The evacuation order applies to about 245,000 people in low-lying coastal areas.

Northam said emergency management officials are still concerned about storm surges, high winds, and potential flooding.

Officials said 59 local shelters and two state-managed shelters are either open or about to open across Virginia.



 
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