"Life-threatening" Hurricane Florence edged closer to the east coast of the United States on Thursday, with tropical-force winds and rain already lashing barrier islands just off the North Carolina mainland.
The huge storm weakened to a Category 2 hurricane overnight, but forecasters warned that it still packed a dangerous punch -- 110 mile-an-hour (175 kph) winds and torrential rains.
Georgia joined four other coastal states issuing an emergency declaration as forecasts showed Florence dumping historic amounts of rain on the southern state.
As Florence closed in, President Donald Trump and state and local officials urged residents in the path of the storm to evacuate.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded Florence to a Category 2 storm from Category 3 on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale, the second such drop in the space of hours.