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Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

Yahoo News Photo Staff

Coastal North Carolina felt the first bite of Hurricane Florence on Thursday as winds began to rise, a prelude to the slow-moving tempest that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the U.S. southeast.

The center of Florence, no longer classified as a major hurricane but still posing a grave threat to life and property, is expected to hit North Carolina’s southern coast Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday, enough time to drop feet of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Businesses and homes in the storm’s path were boarded up and thousands of people had moved to emergency shelters, officials said, urging anyone who remained near the coast to flee. Millions were expected to lose power, perhaps for weeks. (Reuters)

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Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the area. (Photo: Travis Long /The News & Observer via AP)

Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

A spray painted message is left on a boarded up condominium as the outer bands of Hurricane Florence being to affect the coast on Sept. 13, 2018 in Atlantic Beach, United States. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

A flooded street is seen as the outer bands of Hurricane Florence hits in New Bern, N.C. on Sept. 13, 2018. Hurricane Florence is expected to arrive on Friday along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline. (Photo: Atlgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

A sign warns people away from Union Point Park after is was flooded by the Neuse River during Hurricane Florence September 13, 2018 in New Bern, N.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

The wind blows as Reyes visits the beach as people await the arrival of Hurricane Florence on September 13, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

Diamond Dillahunt and 2-year-old Ta-Layah Koonce survey the flooding at the Trent Court public housing apartments after the Neuse River topped its banks during Hurricane Florence Sept. 13, 2018 in New Bern. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

A man rides his bike as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, N.C. on Sept. 13, 2018. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

In this NOAA satellite handout image, shows Hurricane Florence it just makes landfall off the coast of the U.S. in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 13, 2018. Coastal cities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under evacuation orders as the Category 2 hurricane approaches the United States. (Photo: NOAA via Getty Images)

Millions prepare as Hurricane Florence approaches Southeast coast of the U.S.

Heavy surf crashes the dunes at high tide in Nags Head, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast. (Photo: Gerry Broome/AP)

Kill Devil Hills, N.C.

An onlooker checks out the heavy surf at the Avalon Fishing Pier in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast. (Photo: Gerry Broome/AP)

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Doug Lewis (L) and Chris Williams use plywood with the words ‘Looters will be shot’ to cover the windows of Knuckleheads bar as they try to protect the business ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence on Sept. 12, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Hurricane Florence

Cameras outside the International Space Station captured a stark and sobering view of Hurricane Florence the morning of Sept. 12, 2018 as it churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles an hour. The National Hurricane Center forecasts additional strengthening for Florence before it reaches the coastline of North Carolina and South Carolina early Friday, Sept. 14. (Photo: NASA)

Wilmington, N.C.

Emergency workers monitor hurricane progress and prepare for the landing at the Emergency operations center a day before the arrival of hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C., on Sept. 12, 2018. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Carolina Beach, N.C.

People line up for ice before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Carolina Beach, N.C., Sept. 12, 2018. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Conway, S.C

Two people hold hands while walking through a shelter housing evacuees fleeing the path of Hurricane Florence in Conway, S.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. (Photo: David Goldman/AP)

Carolina Beach, N.C.

Homes are boarded up before Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Carolina Beach, N.C., Sept. 12, 2018. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Virginia Beach, Va.

Aria Gonzalez, 3, waits patiently as her parents Jamina, right, and Edwin, center, fill trash bags with sand provided by the city on Sept 11, 2018, in Virginia Beach, Va. The city dumped mounds of free sand in one of the parking lots at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex for residents to use ahead of Hurricane Florence. (Photo: Vicki Cronis-Nohe/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

Greenville, N.C.

People put plywood up on the windows of a theatre before the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Greenville, N.C., Sept. 12, 2018. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Poolside furniture is placed in the pool of a hotel ahead of the approaching Hurricane Florence on Sept. 12, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Oak Island, N.C.

A message is posted on a boarded up building before the arrival of Hurricane Florence on Oak Island, N.C., Sept. 12, 2018. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Parris Island, S.C.

U.S. Marine recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island prepare to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence at Parris Island, S.C., Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal/Handout via Reuters)

Norfolk, Va.

The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort departs from Naval Station Norfolk ahead of Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Va., Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks/Handout via Reuters)

Wilmington, N.C.

People evacuate ahead of the forecasted landfall of Hurricane Florence as they seek shelter at Emma B. Trask Middle School in Wilmington, N.C., Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: Caitlin Penna/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Morehead City, N.C.

Emmett West pulls his boat from a nearby marina to secure it at his home ahead Hurricane Florence in Morehead City, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: David Goldman/AP)

Hurricane Florence

This GOES East satellite image taken Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean as it threatens the U.S. East Coast, including Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina. (Photo: NOAA via AP)

Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence during a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

Norfolk, Va.

Adam Bazemore, left, and Sebastian Silva, place sandbags in the doorways, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in the Willoughby Spit area of Norfolk, Va., as they make preparations for Hurricane Florence. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Garland Meadows of Redix boards up the front windows of the store in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: Matt Born/The Star-News via AP)

Mt. Pleasant S.C.

A gas station in Mt. Pleasant S.C. alerts motorist that it is out of gas due to the heavy demand caused by Hurricane Florence Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: Mic Smith/AP)

Washington, D.C.

Ryder, a three-year old mixed breed dog looks out from an enclosure at Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Ryder is on of as 26 cats and dogs that arrived in Washington from Norfolk Animal Care and Control of Norfolk, Va., in advance of Hurricane Florence. People aren’t the only ones evacuating to get out of the path of Hurricane Florence. The dogs and cats will all be available for adoption. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

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A store’s bread shelves are bare as people stock up on food ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence on Sept. 11, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Norfolk, Va.

A sailor heaves line during a heavy weather mooring evolution in preparation for Hurricane Florence on Sept. 11, 2018 in Norfolk, Va. Some ships will not get underway due to maintenance and are taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage. Commanding officers have a number of options when staying in port. Some of these options include adding additional mooring and storm lines, dropping the anchor, and disconnecting shore power cables. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

Hurricane Florence

This photo provided by NASA shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, as it threatens the U.S. East Coast. (Photo: NASA via AP)

North Charleston, S.C.

Both sides of Interstate 26 in North Charleston, S.C., flow westbound toward Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in preparation for Hurricane Florence. (Photo: Mic Smith/AP)

Charleston, S.C.

Kevin Orth loads sandbags into cars on Milford Street as he helps residents prepare for Hurricane Florence, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Charleston, S.C. (Photo: Grace Beahm Alford/The Post And Courier via AP)

Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Daniel Elkins, left, of Marine Max, lifts a boat out of the water in preparation of Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: Matt Born/The Star-News via AP)

Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Jim Carter and Rob Quinn board up Lagerheads Tavern in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. as they prepare for Hurricane Florence Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Hurricane Florence now a category 3 hurricane is expected to make land fall somewhere along the North Carolina coastline towards the end of the week. (Photo: Ken Blevins /The Star-News via AP)

Wilmington, N.C.

Jim Craig, David Burke and Chris Rayner load generators as people buy supplies at The Home Depot on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Wilmington, N.C. (Photo: Ken Blevins/The Star-News via AP)

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Customers line up to buy propane at Socastee Hardware store, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sept. 10, 2018. (Photo: Randall HillReuters)

Isle of Palms, S.C.

Larry Pierson, from the Isle of Palms, S.C., purchases bottled water from the Harris Teeter grocery store on the Isle of Palms in preparation for Hurricane Florence at the Isle of Palms, S.C., Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (Photo: Mic Smith/AP)

North Charleston, S.C.

South Carolina National Guard soldiers transfer bulk diesel fuel into fuel tanker trucks for distribution in advance of Hurricane Florence, in North Charleston, S.C., Sept. 10, 2018. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Brian Calhoun/Handout via Reuters)

Wilmington, N.C.

Alex Gilewicz buys supplies at The Home Depot on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Wilmington, N.C. Residents of Wilmington and Southeastern N.C. (Photo: Ken Blevins/The Star-News via AP)

Sullivan’s Island, S.C.

Chris Brace, from Charleston, S.C. lowers hurricane shutters on a client’s house in preparation for Hurricane Florence at Sullivan’s Island, S.C., Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (Photo: Mic Smith/AP)

Tropical Storm Florence

This enhanced satellite image made available by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Florence, upper left, in the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 at 3:30 p.m. EDT. At center is Tropical Storm Isaac and at right is Hurricane Helene. (Photo: NOAA via AP)

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