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Update for Thursday, Sept. 13: Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm late Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center, with is still forecasting massive rainfall and flooding for those directly in the storm's path. Visit our sister site Live Science for the latest Hurricane Florence forecast.

Hurricane Florence, on its way across the Atlantic Ocean toward North Carolina, dominates photos and video from the International Space Station, where astronauts are using wide-angle lenses because of how far the storm extends.

The eye of category 4 Hurricane Florence is "chilling, even from space," according to German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who posted this image to Twitter on Sept. 12, 2018.
The eye of category 4 Hurricane Florence is "chilling, even from space," according to German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who posted this image to Twitter on Sept. 12, 2018.
Credit: A. Gerst/ESA/NASA

"Watch out, America!" German astronaut Alexander Gerst wrote on Twitter this morning (Sept. 12). "#HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km [250 miles] directly above the eye."

"Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you," he added. [Hurricane Florence in Photos: See the Massive Storm from Space]

From aboard the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst uses a special super- wide-angle lens to capture an image of the enormous Hurricane Florence barreling toward the East Coast. He posted this image to Twitter on Sept. 12, 2018.
From aboard the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst uses a special super- wide-angle lens to capture an image of the enormous Hurricane Florence barreling toward the East Coast. He posted this image to Twitter on Sept. 12, 2018.
Credit: ESA/NASA

Gerst and American astronaut Ricky Arnold captured the Category 4 storm and its swirling eye up close in images posted to Twitter this morning, emphasizing its epic scale and their thoughts for people in its path.

"#HurricaneFlorence this morning with Cape Hatteras #NorthCarolina in the foreground," Arnold wrote this morning. "The crew of @Space_Station is thinking of those who will be affected."

Another view from astronaut Alexander Gerst of the eye of Hurricane Florence, posted to Twitter on Sept. 12, 2018.
Another view from astronaut Alexander Gerst of the eye of Hurricane Florence, posted to Twitter on Sept. 12, 2018.
Credit: A. Gerst/ESA/NASA

Florence is set to reach the coastline of North and South Carolina early Friday (Sept. 14), according to NASA and the National Hurricane Center (NHC), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Winds this morning reached 130 mph (200 km/h) and will likely strengthen before it arrives, officials said. For the Carolinas, the NHC predicts a "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall."

An image taken by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold of Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean, approaching the Carolinas on Sept. 12, 2018.
An image taken by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold of Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean, approaching the Carolinas on Sept. 12, 2018.
Credit: Astro_Ricky/Twitter

Quick on Florence's heels, two more powerful storms are crossing the Atlantic, tracked by NASA satellites: Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene. Helene will likely wear itself out before hitting land, the NHC said in its latest forecast, and Isaac, which has been downgraded from a hurricane, is on its way to the Caribbean, officials said.

From the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready for Hurricane Florence in this photo posted to Twitter on Sept. 12, 2018: "This is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you."
From the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready for Hurricane Florence in this photo posted to Twitter on Sept. 12, 2018: "This is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you."
Credit: ESA/NASA

But Florence is at the front of the line, and is certainly at the forefront of astronaut thoughts and those in the U.S. Southeast

"Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane?" Gerst wrote. "It's chilling, even from space."

Astronaut Alexander Gerst provides a view straight down into the eye of Hurricane Florence, headed toward the U.S. Southeast as of Sept. 12, 2018.
Astronaut Alexander Gerst provides a view straight down into the eye of Hurricane Florence, headed toward the U.S. Southeast as of Sept. 12, 2018.
Credit: A. Gerst/ESA/NASA

Email Sarah Lewin at slewin@space.com or follow her @SarahExplains. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com