Tropical Storm Florence crawls over Carolinas leaving devastating wake

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Florence flooding: North, South Carolina cope with wet misery left by storm

Residents grapple with flooding after Florence moves through Carolinas.

Tropical Storm Florence is crawling slowly across South Carolina as life-threatening storm surges and strong winds are expected to continue overnight, amid a rising inland flood threat.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the core of Florence was located at 11 p.m. Friday about 15 miles west-northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Top sustained winds are now about 65 mph and the storm is moving to the west-southwest at 5 mph - a track that is expected to continue through early Saturday.

Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and South Carolina ahead.

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VIDEOS: Hurricane Florence heads toward Carolinas (1 of 18)

Florence flooding: North, South Carolina cope with wet misery left by storm

Residents grapple with flooding after Florence moves through Carolinas.



As Florence moves further inland over the coming days, the storm is expected to gradually weaken. Forecasters say it could become a depression by Saturday night.

Florence rolled ashore in North Carolina as a hurricane with howling 90 mph winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, trapping hundreds of people in high water as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching. At least four people were killed.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing cinderblock motel. Hundreds more were rescued elsewhere from rising water. Others could only wait and hope someone would come for them.

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"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," the city of New Bern tweeted around 2 a.m. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU."

As the giant, 400-mile-wide hurricane pounded away, it flattened trees, crumbled roads and knocked out power to more than 880,000 homes and businesses. And the assault wasn't anywhere close to being over, with the siege in the Carolinas expected to last all weekend.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. The governor's office said a third person was killed while plugging in a generator.

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The biggest danger, as forecasters saw it, was not the wind but the water: the storm surge along the coastline and the prospect of 1 to 3 feet of rain over the next several days that could trigger catastrophic flooding in a slow-motion disaster well inland.

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By early afternoon, Florence's winds had weakened to 75 mph, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm's terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph earlier in the week. But the hurricane had slowed to a crawl as it traced the North Carolina-South Carolina shoreline, drenching coastal communities for hours on end.

The town of Oriental had gotten more than 18 inches of rain just a few hours into the deluge, while Surf City had 14 inches and it was still coming down.

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. "It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave."

Do you know someone affected by Hurricane Florence? Give us a call as (312) 750-7070
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VIDEOS: Hurricane Florence heads toward Carolinas (1 of 18)

Florence flooding: North, South Carolina cope with wet misery left by storm

Residents grapple with flooding after Florence moves through Carolinas.


Cooper said the hurricane was "wreaking havoc" on the coast and could wipe out entire communities as it makes its "violent grind across our state for days." He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet.

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

It was expected to begin pushing its way westward across South Carolina later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend.

'We are coming to get you:' 150 needing rescue after getting trapped on roofs, in attics in New Bern
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AccuWeather's Reed Timmer reports on the dangerous conditions in New Bern, where cars are trapped and buildings are submerged in the substantial flooding.



For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

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Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of environmental havoc from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared last year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for nearly 3,000 deaths in the desperate aftermath.

First responders evacuate hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina
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Jacksonville, North Carolina Deputy City Manager Ron Massey describes evacuating a hotel during Hurricane Florence.



The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually make a right hook to the northeast over the southern Appalachians, moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England as a tropical depression by the middle of next week.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 18 trillion gallons of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches (25 centimeters).

On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines. Traffic lights out of order because of power failures swayed in the gusty wind. Roof shingles were peeled off a hotel.

Hurricane Florence videos: Storm surge and other impacts around North Carolina

The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 mph (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.

Airlines canceled more than 2,100 flights through Sunday.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River trapped people, and New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told The Associated Press more than 360 people had been rescued by midafternoon Friday, but another 140 were still waiting for help.

She says crews from the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were working with citizen volunteers to get people to dry ground.

RELATED: Water rescues underway in New Bern as Hurricane Florence lashes North Carolina coast

Tom Balance, owner of a seafood restaurant in New Bern, had decided against evacuating his home and was soon alarmed to see waves coming off the Neuse and the water getting higher and higher. Six sheriff's officers came to his house to rescue him Friday morning, but he didn't need to leave since the water was dropping by then.

Still, he said: "I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth."

Sadie Marie Holt, 67, first tried to row out of her neighborhood during Florence's assault.

"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard, that trying to get out we got thrown into trailers. We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees," said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew.

Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs, and the experience left her shaken.

"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington. I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me," she said. "We might leave."

Sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the electricity went out.

"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying," said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house.

More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire. Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did.

More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centers were moved out of the storm's path.

Officials at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington have announced the school will remain closed until further notice because of the effects of Hurricane Florence.

A memo sent out to school personnel Friday said officials "cannot yet effectively or comprehensively assess the impact on our campus." Because of that, the school said it is unable to determine when it will resume the fall semester.
Related Topics:
weatherhurricanetropical stormforecasthurricane florenceu.s. & worldtropical weatherVirginiaNorth CarolinaSouth Carolina
(Copyright ©2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)



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