FIRST ALERT: Florence downgrades to tropical storm; warnings con

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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Florence downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon, but the Lowcountry is still expected to feel impacts including heavy winds and flooding rain starting late Friday night into Saturday. 

The latest update shows the system is now producing tropical storm force wind gusts in Florence, South Carolina.

As of this afternoon., the storm is about 25 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach.

The storm has maximum sustained winds near 70 mph, and made landfall just after 7:15 a.m. near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

Live 5 Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh says Florence is currently jogging westward as it pushes west slowly towards South Carolina with flooding rain and tropical storm winds expected to affect the Tri-County late Friday night into Saturday.  

“The effects to the Lowcountry will all depend on how big Florence’s dip into South Carolina is,” Walsh said Friday afternoon. 

Possible effects include tree damage, power outages, damaging winds and heavy rainfall. 

The most current data shows a total of 3 to 4 inches of rainfall in the Lowcountry by the time Florence makes its way out of the state on Sunday. 

Walsh said the real bulk of the impacts will be felt by the northeastern region of South Carolina including Georgetown and Horry counties which may see a total of 12 inches of rain. 

“The storm is moving really slow through the region,” Walsh said.”If it was moving faster we would have lesser impacts.” 

South Carolina is expecting heavy rainfall and wind over the next few days.

Forecasters expect catastrophic freshwater flooding over parts of the Carolinas.

5 p.m. Update

At 5 p.m., the center of Florence was located near latitude 34.0 North, longitude 78.6 West. Florence is now moving toward the west at 3 mph.  

A slow westward to west-southwestward motion is expected through Saturday.

NHC officials say on the forecast track, the center of Florence will move farther inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina this evening, and across extreme eastern South Carolina tonight and Saturday.

Florence will then move generally northward across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.

“Doppler radar data and surface observations indicate that maximum sustained winds have decreased near 70 mph (110 km/h) with higher gusts,”NHC officials said.”Gradual weakening is expected tonight. Significant weakening is forecast over the weekend and into early next week while Florence moves farther inland. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km) from the center. A sustained wind of 55 mph (89 km/h) and gust to to 72 mph (116 km/h) was recently reported at the National Ocean Service station at Johnny Mercer Pier in Wrightsville Beach.”

What to expect in the Lowcountry

Even though the system has diminished in strength, it’s forecasted to be a huge rainmaker as it slowly moves across South Carolina.

Live 5 Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh said the major concerns for the Lowcountry right now are heavy rainfall and winds from late Friday night through Saturday which could lead to power outages.

“This isn’t going to be a coming and going storm, it’s going to stick around for a couple of days,” Walsh said. 

A Tropical Storm Warning remains in effect for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. 

The latest data shows the Tri-County being affected by tropical storm force winds Friday morning until Saturday morning with winds between 35 mph to 45 mph and gusts of 60 mph. 

The eventual shift south into South Carolina is attributed to a big area of high pressure in the north that is keeping the hurricane to the south.

Early Friday morning, Florence was moving west-northwest at 6 mph with its center located at 34.2 North, longitude  77.9 West. 

A turn toward the west at a slow forward speed is expected today, followed by a slow west-southwestward motion tonight and Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

On the forecast track, the center of Florence is expected to move inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern South Carolina Friday and Saturday, NHC officials said.

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CLICK HERE for the Live 5 Hurricane Center.

READ MORE: How to build your Hurricane Survival Kit

READ MORE: Gov. McMaster declares State of Emergency in SC, Florence expected to be a ‘statewide event’

READ MORE: Tri-County, SCEMD operating at OPCON 3 ahead of Florence


Watches and warnings in effect

A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued from south of South Santee River to Edisto Beach, South Carolina.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for… * Myrtle Beach South Carolina to Salvo North Carolina * Pamlico Sound, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers A

Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for… * Edisto Beach South Carolina to Cape Hatteras North Carolina * Pamlico Sound

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