Steve Harrigan Reports in Extreme Conditions in North Topsail Beach, NC

Cristina Cross
September 15, 2018

"This is an extremely risky and life-threatening situation".

More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught on the coast would last for hours and hours because Florence had come nearly to a dead halt at just 3 mph (6 kph) as of midday.

Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday evening with peak winds of 90 miles per hour (150 km/h).

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

Along the coast, floodwaters have been hitting inland towns near rivers that normally discharge into the ocean.

The result: prolonged storm surge, wind and rain.

The police chief of Wrightsville Beach suggested that those who chose to stay give him their next-of-kin contact information.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably a 7" in terms of worry, she said.

Some 20,000 people had taken refuge in 157 emergency shelters, Cooper said.

Emergency Management services in North Carolina are reporting that 497,255 customers are without power in North Carolina as Hurricane Florence makes landfall.

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The storm's winds will slowly weaken, but some of its most devastating effects may be yet to come.

In New Bern, Sarah Risty-Davis is one of the residents who opted not to follow a mandatory evacuation order that was issued three days ago.

Farther up the coast, in New Bern, about 150 people waited to be rescued from flooding on the Neuse River, WXII-TV reported.

Despite the threat from rising tides, Risty-Davis said her family would continue to stay put, noting her neighborhood's previous success in avoiding power outages and flooding. The agency adds that people trapped by flooding should "never enter attics or crawl spaces".

The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958, the weather service said. The center of the storm is expected to maintain a westward track across southeastern North Carolina Friday and across eastern South Carolina Friday and Saturday.

Experts are warning people that the most serious threat posed by Florence might just be the massive amount of water it is expected to leave in its wake, from the storm surge that could exceed 13 feet in some areas to a deluge of rainfall that may hit 40 inches in certain pockets.

The National Hurricane Center said early Friday that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation.

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is producing tropical storm-force wind gusts in Florence, South Carolina, about 60 miles from the coast.

"Those outer bands are just as destructive as areas that come close to the walls, so it's going to be a very long overnight for a lot of people between Virginia all the way down to Georgia", Dresner said.

This will take place heading into early next week.

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