MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) – Florence has been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 mph.
The National Hurricane Center says Florence is now lashing the North Carolina coast with hurricane -force winds and a life-threatening storm surge. It says the threat of freshwater flooding will increase in coming hours and days from the storm’s heavy rains.
The Miami-based center said in an update at 11 p.m. EDT Thursday that the storm’s eye was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Morehead, City, North Carolina. The core is also about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The storm is moving to the northwest at 6 mph (9 kph).
Forecasters say the center of Florence is expected to move inland between Friday and Saturday.
Far out in the Atlantic, Joyce strengthened into a tropical storm on Thursday evening with top sustained winds of 40 mph. The center says that storm is about 1,040 miles west-southwest of the Azores and no coastal watches or warnings are in effect. Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Helene is forecast to pass near the Azores on Saturday, and Tropical Storm Isaac is moving west across the eastern Caribbean.
In New Bern, N.C., A North Carolina TV news station evacuated its building due to rising waters from Hurricane Florence.
New Bern’s WCTI-TV NewsChannel 12 posted on Facebook on Thursday night that employees had to abandon the studio for the “first time in history.”
A spokesperson for the ABC affiliate said that roads around the building were flooding. The station said on Facebook that it was broadcasting its sister station WPDE-TV’s coverage of the storm.
Meanwhile, Duke Energy is expecting up to 3 million power outages for its 4 million customers.
New Brunswick, Canada-based Holland Power Services says it sent 100 vehicles and more than 250 workers to help Duke’s restoration efforts. A mile-long convoy of repair trucks could be seen moving between staging points in Raleigh.
So far, utilities have reported 80,000 customers without power because of Florence.