Raleigh: As Hurricane Florence is approaching landfall, the US East Coast is bracing for tough times. Though Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a category 2 storm, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service is saying it will still be a catastrophic event. 

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said if the people, who have been asked to vacate, are not leaving, they will be putting their lives at risk.

"You (will) put your life at risk by staying. Don't plan to leave once the winds and rains start," he said.

Also read: Hurricane Florence to rival North Carolina’s 1954 ‘benchmark storm’ Hazel

In Carolina Beach, traffic to the island, which is less than five feet above sea level, via the only bridge has been halted. 

It is predicted that Florence will inflict extensive damage as it drifts towards the coast. “Winds on the east side of the storm are going to be most effective in driving storm surge flooding as the wind and waves pound the coast,” said AccuWeather founder and president Joel N Myers.

Also read: Understanding hurricane Florence: What makes the storm different from cyclones, typhoons

Eastern North Carolina can witness tornadoes on Thursday. Airlines have cancelled almost 1,000 flights.

President Donald Trump said that highest priority now is “protection of life”. He also said that the storm will be the “biggest to ever hit” the US.