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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hurricane Florence is maintaining its strength as the storm heads towards the Carolina coastline.

At 11 p.m., the center of the Category 2 hurricane was about 280 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Florence is moving toward the northwest near 17 mph, and this general motion, accompanied by a gradual decrease in forward speed, is expected to continue through Thursday.

A turn to the west-northwest and west at an even slower forward speed is expected Thursday night and Friday, and a slow west-southwestward motion is forecast Friday night and Saturday.

On the forecast track, the center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and South Carolina on Thursday, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina in the hurricane warning area on Thursday night and Friday.

A slow motion over eastern South Carolina is forecast Friday night and Saturday.

Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 110 mph with higher gusts.

Florence is now a category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale.

Little change in strength is expected before the center reaches the coast, with weakening expected after the center moves inland.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for…
* South Santee River South Carolina to Duck North Carolina
* Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for…
* Edisto Beach South Carolina to South Santee River South Carolina
* North of Duck North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia border

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for…
* South Santee River South Carolina to Duck North Carolina
* Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for…
* Edisto Beach South Carolina to South Santee River South Carolina

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…
* North of Duck North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia border

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for…
* North of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Charles Light Virginia
* Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort

RAINFALL
Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive rainfall in the following areas…

Coastal North Carolina…20 to 30 inches, isolated 40 inches. This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding.
South Carolina, western and northern North Carolina…5 to 10 inches, isolated 20 inches
Elsewhere in the Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic states…3 to 6 inches, isolated 12 inches

This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding.

WIND
Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast within the hurricane warning area on Friday. Winds are expected to first reach tropical storm strength on Thursday, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous.

STORM SURGE
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and
destructive waves.

SURF
Swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

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