Wilmington, North Carolina: Hurricane Florence has started battering Carolinas. Incessant rains have led to swelling of the rivers and floodwaters have begun to fill the streets. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned the residents to stay alert and said, “Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Hurricane Florence was uninvited but she’s just about here anyway.”

The National Hurricane Center said that Florence downgraded to a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale and remained dangerous and unpredictable. As per the forecast, it was all set to make landfall either on Friday morning or afternoon near Cape Fear, North Carolina, bringing up to 40 inches (1 metre) of rain in several places.

Category 2 storm has a sustained wind speed of 96 to 110 miles per hour. It is categorised by extremely dangerous winds which cause extensive damage. Such is the intensity that well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. This storm will lead to the uprooting of many shallowly rooted trees which will lead to the blocking of numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.

Earlier this week, Florence’s maximum sustained winds were clocked at 100 miles per hour (170 km per hour) as it spun in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 mph (224 kph) and was classified as a Category 4 storm.

According to the National Weather Service, the community of Avon on North Carolina’s Outer Banks barrier islands reported wind gusts of 74 miles per hour (119 km per hour), while Morehead City on the mainland coast had received 3.6 inches (9.1 cm) of rain in the past 13 hours.

About 10 million people live in the storm’s path and more than 1 million had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia. As per officials, thousands have taken refuge in emergency shelters. The National Hurricane Center warned the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rains could trigger landslides in the western part of his state.

Florence could bring wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 13 feet (4 meters) and NHC Director Ken Graham said on Facebook they could push in as far as 2 miles (3 km). Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Emergency declarations are in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

(With Agency Inputs.)