Watch live streaming video of Hurricane Florence rolling into North Carolina

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"But they may not be that much different in terms of wind speed", said Luettich.

Almost 2 million coastal residents are now under mandatory evacuation orders, although it remains unclear how many have actually done so. Of those who left, more than 4,000 had sought housing at emergency shelters across the state.

Like many other officials in the storm's path, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said no one will be able to save at-risk residents if they choose to ride out the storm.

Two of those 61 shelters are at full capacity. All that said, a saturated ground, even with tropical storm-force winds, will uproot trees.

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The fierce winds of Hurricane Florence are weakening as it creeps closer to North Carolina but the impact of the enormous storm will still be catastrophic for millions of people.

The downgraded status of the storm, which indicates that Hurricane Florence is moving at maximum sustained wind speeds of 110 miles per hour, means little in terms of its impact and deadly potential, according to Elliot Abrams, chief forecaster at Accuweather.

"The American Integrated Operations Center (IOC) in Fort Worth, Texas, continues to closely monitor the track of these storms, and is closely coordinating with the National Weather Service, Federal Aviation Administration and local airports", American Airlines announced in a statement.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts that it could be centered over southwestern Pennsylvania by early Tuesday morning, potentially bringing more rain to Maryland and another surge of floodwaters down an already swollen Susquehanna River.

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The outer bands of Hurricane Florence drenched the Carolinas on Thursday, flooding roads, gorging rivers and knocking out power in an ominous glimpse of the damage the storm could inflict when it makes landfall on Friday with millions of people in its path.

Scientists hypothesize that a warmer world will bring slower storms, so what we saw last year with Harvey - and now this year with Florence - could be a sign of those changes. With it, the storm will drop significant rainfall across the Grand Strand - 15 inches to 20 inches and the Midlands - 4 inches to 10 inches.

Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled about 1,200 flights and counting, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out. Municipal power agencies, including New Bern and Southport, have not reported any outages yet.

In the tiny community of Sea Breeze near Wilmington, Roslyn Fleming, 56, made a video of the inlet where her granddaughter was baptized because "I just don't think a lot of this is going to be here" later.

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"It doesn't matter where you are", he said. "But even worse than that is coming back in because you don't know what you're coming back to". The rest of South and North Carolina, including cities from Charlotte to Raleigh, can expect 6 to 12 inches of rain - and up to 2 feet in isolated areas, the NHC warned. Slower storms mean more rainfall over a smaller area. Brian Wierzbicki, with U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.