Update: Florence Proves Deadly,
5 11 Have Died Already
Florence slammed into the Carolina coast and moved inland Friday, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of 5 people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.
A mother and her baby died when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina. The child’s injured father was taken to a hospital.
In the Pender County, a woman died of a heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.
In Lenoir County 2 people died. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man perished when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs.
“We knew this was going to be a big storm, but it is going to be of epic proportions,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference in Raleigh.
Governor Cooper cited a National Weather Service (NWS) forecast that said nearly the entire state could be covered in several feet of water.
Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the 5-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore.
The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm Friday afternoon, but warned that life-threatening storm surges in which water is pushed by a storm over land that would normally be dry – catastrophic freshwater flooding were still expected.
Friday evening, the center of the storm had moved to eastern South Carolina, about 15 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.
In New Bern, North Carolina, the storm surge “overwhelmed” the town, located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers, Governor Cooper said.
Officials in the town of 30,000, which dates to the early 18th Century, said over 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon. Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in.
“These are folks who decided to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation,” the city public information officer said. “These are folks who are maybe in one-story buildings and they’re seeing the floodwaters rise.”
Parts of North and South Carolina were forecast to get as much as 40 ins of rain.
More than 60 people, including many children, were evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds collapsed part of the roof. Many of the evacuees took their pets.
Atlantic Beach, located on the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands, had received 30 ins of rain, the US Geological Survey said.
Friday, the White House said President Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help. President Trump plans a visit to the region next week.
Nearly 900,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early Friday, utility officials said. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.
The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. Significant weakening was expected over the weekend.
About 10-M people could be affected by the storm.
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