Hurricane Florence has weakened to a Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, but its wind field continues to grow as it approaches the Carolinas.
The storm was about 170 miles east southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina at 9 a.m. Thursday, and was moving northwest at 12 mph.
Forecasters expect landfall tonight or Friday. Florence then is expected crawl through the Southeast into early next week, producing catastrophic flooding and storm surges.
With winds still exceeding 100 mph, little change in strength is expected before the center reaches the coast. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend 195 miles, according to reports.
Ocean waves were recorded as high as 83 feet Wednesday.
The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday that while Florence has weakened, its wind field continues to grow. “This evolution will produce storm surges similar to that of a more intense but smaller hurricane, and thus the storm surge values in the previous advisory are still valid."
Storm surge is predicted at 9 to 13 feet from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout in North Carolina. Rainfall is predicted to average 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina, with isolated amounts approaching 40 inches.
The National Hurricane Center regularly updates information about Hurricane Florence.