RALEIGH (WFMY) - 45 North Carolina counties are under a Tropical Storm Warning as Hurricane Michael continues to track northeast Wednesday night.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper cautioned people who live in flood-prone areas to prepare for the storm and be ready to evacuate if needed. Duke Energy predicts between 300,000 and 500,000 power outages in the Carolinas.

“Hurricane Michael hit Florida with brutal force and is quickly heading for North Carolina,” said Gov. Cooper. “Michael will lose some of its punch before it reaches us but will still pack damaging wind and flooding rain and we need to take it seriously.”

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As of Wednesday night, there were 26 school systems set to close Thursday and four scheduled to dismiss early.

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A high wind warning is in effect for three counties.

In general, the heaviest rain will fall west of the storm’s track and the strongest winds southeast of the track. The heaviest rains are expected Thursday and Thursday night. Rain will fall statewide, with central North Carolina and the Foothills expecting as much as 7 inches of rain.

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Eastern North Carolina expects to see the strongest winds, with 24-45 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 50 mph.

“We know people are storm-weary from Florence, but we must not let down our guard for Michael,” Gov. Cooper said.

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