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Data: National Hurricane Center; Chart: Chris Canipe and Laz Gamio/Axios

Hurricane Florence is on track for an unprecedented collision with the Carolinas, where it threatens to bring a deadly mix of storm surge flooding, high winds and catastrophic inland flooding.

The big picture: Florence is a nightmare of a storm: It's unusually large, contains waves towering to at least 83 feet, and is preparing to push a virtual wall of water onto the coastlines of North and South Carolina. The surge will not behave the same way residents of coastal communities there are used to. Instead, it may hammer the coast of North Carolina for 24 hours or more, and then slide from northeast to southwest, down into South Carolina, as the storm meanders.

The details: The experts at the National Hurricane Center are wrestling with a greater amount of uncertainty than they typically face so close to landfall. This is because the storm will move into an area with weak steering currents, causing it to meander or stall for a time.

The graphic above illustrates the evolution of the Hurricane Center's storm track maps and the "cone of uncertainty." It shows the shifts that have occurred as computer models try to lock onto the fickle movement of the storm near and after landfall.

Be smart: Florence is unusually large for a major landfalling hurricane, with impacts extending hundreds of miles from the center. This means that focusing on the centerline of track forecasts can be a bit deceiving.

The impacts: The projected storm track as of Wednesday afternoon would cause potentially catastrophic damage to coastal North and South Carolina, and would spread misery far inland from devastating amounts of rain. Up to 3 feet of rain or more is forecast in North and South Carolina, and this plume of moisture may extend further north or south, depending on the storm's final path.

Track the most up-to-date forecast information and analysis here.

Go deeper: Hurricane Florence to cause "unbelievable destruction" in Carolinas.

The ties between Hurricane Florence and climate change.

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