Hurricane Florence has lost a bit of steam, but that doesn't mean the Carolinas are out of the woods. The BBC reports that wind speeds have come down to 110mph, reslotting the hurricane into the Category 2 category from a Category 3, per a National Hurricane Center advisory on Thursday morning. But the winds aren't expected to die down further, and Florence's forward speed toward the coast is starting to slow, meaning once it makes landfall somewhere along the coast of the Carolinas—right now expected for late Thursday into Friday, per CNN—it will likely linger, without much motion, near the coastline, which could prove disastrous for those in its path. That's because the relentless rain may not let up for some time, leading to heavy flooding, even further inland.
Huge storm surges of up to 13 feet are also feared. "Do not focus on the wind speed category," the National Weather Service warned in an early Thursday tweet. "This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast," a FEMA official says, per the BBC. European astronaut Alexander Gerst shared pictures of Florence—which USA Today says is bigger than the state of North Carolina—from space, calling the storm a "no-kidding nightmare." In addition to North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland are also in the storm's sights. The Carolinas' main power supplier warns it could take weeks to restore power to the millions expected to lose it, per the New York Times. "The time to prepare is almost over. Disaster is at the doorstep, and it's coming in," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.