ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Hurricane Florence weakened slightly today to a Category 3 storm, but it is still a major hurricane. Its path has shifted slightly to the south. Governors from Georgia to Maryland have declared states of emergency. Shelters are preparing to house people forced to evacuate. And forecasters are urging people to get ready for what could be devastating wind and rain. NPR's Sarah McCammon joins us from Norfolk, Va. Hi, Sarah.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Where is the biggest threat right now?
MCCAMMON: All eyes really are on the Carolinas. And that's always been the major focus of concern, especially around the Wilmington, N.C., area. The current predictions now have this storm shifting southward after it makes landfall. But here's a real concern. The storm is expected to stall, and some areas could see hurricane-like conditions for more than 24 hours straight. Hurricane warnings are in effect for much of North and South Carolina. And here's what North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper had to say today.
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ROY COOPER: Disaster is at the doorstep, and it's coming in. If you're on the coast, there's still time to get out safely. No possession is worth your life.
MCCAMMON: The winds are a big problem of course, but flooding, as always, is often the real worry. And that's true both along the coast and in many inland areas.
SHAPIRO: So we just heard Governor Cooper say there's still time for people to evacuate. But as the forecast shifts, what advice are emergency managers giving?
MCCAMMON: It's really different of course depending on where you live. So here in the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area, the threat appears to have diminished a little bit because of that southward turn of those projections. Dave Hansen is Virginia Beach's city manager, and he says it's been difficult because there's never been a hurricane quite like Florence.
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DAVE HANSEN: We recognize that this storm is still unpredictable. All the weather forecasters are challenged by uncharted weather conditions associated with Hurricane Florence.
MCCAMMON: So Virginia Beach is scaling back their sheltering plan. Officials say for some residents of this area, it might be better to shelter in place than relocate. But some people do need to evacuate if they haven't done so already, especially in the Carolinas.
SHAPIRO: And what kinds of preparations are you seeing people take?
MCCAMMON: Lots of people across the region remain under those mandatory evacuation orders. Shelters are getting set up, and some people are starting to move into them. Earlier today, I visited a shelter here in Norfolk where I met Wade Stroud. He's from North Carolina, has been on a big trip across the country and basically got stuck here in Norfolk on his way home. And he'd pitched in to help set up the shelter.
WADE STROUD: I mean, I don't want to go into the storm. But at the same time, it's kind of like, I'm not from here. I don't have anything. So they said, hey, here's a shelter. Go. And so I came and saw that they needed help and started helping.
MCCAMMON: So whether people are traveling or sheltering in place, authorities continue to have that same advice, you know, to be ready for a long ordeal, gather up food, water, medical supplies, flashlights. Governor Cooper of North Carolina said this could be a marathon, not a sprint.
SHAPIRO: And what's the current expectation for when this storm might make landfall?
MCCAMMON: It's expected to make landfall sometime on Friday. But much of the region will start to go ahead and see those tropical storm conditions, the heavy wind and the rain, starting as soon as tomorrow. But the impact of this storm will be felt long afterward. It's expected to move slowly once it gets here, and those heavy rains we've been hearing about could continue into early next week.
SHAPIRO: And that's why we've been hearing such warnings that once people are cut off, it could be days or weeks before help can reach them.
MCCAMMON: That's right.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Sarah McCammon in Norfolk, Va., thanks very much.
MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.