WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) -- The National Hurricane Center downgraded Florence to a Category 3 storm Wednesday afternoon.
Maximum wind speeds have decreased slightly to 125 mph but the storm still poses grave dangers with life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall.
Small fluctuations are expected as Florence approaches, said NHC director Ken Graham. "But either way, it's still a major hurricane and it's going to have a major impact."
Florence is currently about 435 miles off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina. There is a strong possibility it could restrengthen as it approaches landfall.
The storm's path shifted slightly south, according to a Wednesday morning update from the National Hurricane Center.
The slow-moving storm is expected to inundate the East Coast with rain and inland flooding forecast from South Carolina to Virginia. Parts of North Carolina could get as much as 25 inches of rainfall. Coastal flooding from storm surge will push water further inland on top of heavy rain.
More than 5.4 million people on the East Coast are in the path of the storm. States of emergency have been declared in the Carolinas, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and Washington, D.C.