Update: As of 11:40 p.m. Wednesday, Hurricane Florence has dipped to a Category 2 hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.
According to AccuWeather, even though Florence is moving swiftly to the northwest, it is believed that the hurricane will stall and meander near the Carolina coast from Thursday night to Saturday.
Hurricane Florence is now expected to hit the Carolina coast with less powerful winds, a trade-off with increased rainfall — which may ultimately be more damaging for some areas.
The first severe winds from Hurricane Florence are still expected to hit the Wilmington, North Carolina area around Thursday at 2 p.m. — with the eye striking the Wilmington area on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., according to most recent update from the National Weather Service.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said Florence was centered 385 miles (615 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, moving northwest at 16 mph (26 kph), and is forecast to approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore.
Its winds were down to 120 mph (195 kph) from a high of 140 mph (225 kph), and the Category 4 storm fell to a Category 3, according to the center.
Aside from wind-shear dangers, concerns are now shifting to flooding and storm surge issues. The Wilmington area can currently expect 6- to 9-foot storm surges if Florence’s peak impact coincides with high tide. For comparison, Hurricane Irene caused a 7-foot surge in 2011, and Hurricane Hazel caused an 18-foot surge in Calabash and Carolina Shores in 1954.
The latest predictions also show that, while Florence will pack less powerful winds, it will also slow down, allowing it to drop much more rain on the Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender county areas. The first tropical-storm-strength winds are currently expected to hit on Thursday at 2 p.m. and last throughout the weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The Wilmington area is also at the center of predictions for extreme levels of rainfall; while inland area can expect 7 to 20 inches, Wilmington can expect 2 to 3 feet of rain, according to the NWS.
Hampton Roads is out of the immediate “cone” but there are still several weather threats to look out for, said Jeff Orrock, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wakefield.
But Orrock emphasized “I don’t want folks dropping their guard.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our sister publication, Port City Daily in Wilmington, North Carolina, is in the path of Hurricane Florence. Our staff there is covering Florence and its impact to that community.