Space Station astronaut captures mammoth Hurricane Florence from directly above

There are fears tonight that Hurricane Florence which is now close to the US East Coast could result in deaths and catastrophic flooding.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 storm late Thursday night, as it approached shore - but officials warned it was still very unsafe.

Like many other officials in the storm's path, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said no one will be able to save at-risk residents if they choose to ride out the storm.

A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet (9 metres) high as Florence churned toward shore.

Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday evening at 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 miles per hour (224 km/h) earlier this week when it was classified as a Category 4 storm.

Susan Faulkenberry Panousis has stayed in her Bald Head Island, North Carolina home during prior hurricanes, but not this time.

"It truly is really about the whole size of this storm", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham told The Associated Press.

The centre of Florence is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday.

The massive storm will impact millions as it charges toward the southeastern USA, and is expected to bring with it massive amounts of rain, unsafe flooding and powerful storm surges.

The storm could dump 20 to 30 inches of rain along the Carolina coast and up to 12 inches inland.

But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

Holly Waters, 54, a retired special education teacher from Wilmington, said she was happy to have a place to go to relax before the storm worsened.

Another Wilmington resident said she does not want to leave because she is afraid to see what she would be coming back to. "I've got four cats inside the house".

North Carolina has had this problem before.

Several of the images were taken when the ISS was directly over the eye of the hurricane.

Folks in Charleston, South Carolina, who have chosen not to evacuate, are preparing for a nasty storm that could make landfall right in their backyard.

General O'Shaughnessy said there were about 7,000 U.S. military personnel now in place and ready to respond to the storm, along with ships, helicopters, high-wheeled vehicles and other equipment.

Yesterday, Dr Greg Postel, the network's hurricane specialist, said three feet (0.9m) of water was enough to knock people off their feet, potentially carry cars away and flood lower levels of buildings.

It is expected to impact Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

Despite pleas from state and local officials, some residents rejected calls to evacuate.

"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse.

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