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Florence has weakened to a tropical storm, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Friday, adding that still life-threatening storm surges and catastrophic freshwater flooding are expected over portions of North and SC.

At 11.00pm (0300 GMT), the eye of the storm was 280 miles (450km) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 17 mph.

Weak steering current will allow the hurricane to drift westward along the SC coast and inland, and center over the state's interior Sunday morning, the NHC projected. As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on the state's Outer Banks barrier islands, already had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the US Geological Service said. He says parts of Virginia will likely see tropical storm-force winds, flooding and several inches of rain.

The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help.

It was the second such drop in the space of hours, but the Miami-based NHC stressed it remained "a life-threatening situation" due to the risks of storm surge around coastal areas.

North and SC and Virginia officials ordered the evacuation of more than 1.5 million people as Florence headed to those coastlines with an expected landfall Friday.

The influx of North Carolina evacuees started Tuesday, he said.

A hurricane warning was in effect from the South Santee River in SC to Duck, N.C., nearly 400 miles.

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A hurricane warning is in effect for South Santee River, SC, north to Duck, NC, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. Author of "The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast".

Areas along the coast from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, NC, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay rivers may experience storm surges from 9 to 13 feet. Favorable wind patterns. Higher sea levels that exacerbate storm surge.

A "storm surge watch" is issued when flooding is possible, while a "warning" is issued when flooding is expected.

"It certainly is a challenge forecasting precise impacts when its exact track won't be known until a day in advance", Landsea said: There's "a huge difference" in the size and type of damage Florence inflicts if it stays 50 miles off shore versus heading inland immediately.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut tore through the northern tip of the Philippines on Saturday packing winds of more than 200 km per hour (124 mph) along with torrential rain, killing three people and causing floods, landslides and power outages. "There will be disruptions in our services", he said. Tropical Storm Olivia has made landfall in the Hawaiian islands, the Philippines are bracing for the powerful typhoon Mangkhut, and Tropical Storm Isaac is nearing the Leeward Islands. His remarks fell flat in Puerto Rico where islanders are continuing to struggle to recover a year after the Category 4 storm.

No. 3 US railroad operator CSX Corp provides service to the Port of Wilmington and will close the gates at its intermodal terminals in Savannah, Charlotte and Jacksonville on Wednesday evening, stopping inbound and outbound truck container traffic.

And yet another tropical storm formed in the Atlantic Thursday night.

Joyce, which is about 1,040 miles from the Azores, is moving south-southwest near 7 mph. The NHC is encouraging officials in northeastern Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to monitor its progress.