Winds, rain intensify as Hurricane Florence pummels North Carolina

Cristina Cross
September 15, 2018

It was downgraded Friday afternoon to a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph (110 kph) before its core slogged into coastal SC hours later.

Forecasters said Florence's eye could come ashore early Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Its surge of ocean water could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 13 feet, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.

In the besieged North Carolina town of New Bern, rescuers plucked more than 100 people from rising waters, but about 150 more had to wait when conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet.

About 10 million people live in the storm's path and more than 1 million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

However, many are choosing to stay put, with some saying the emergency shelters do not accept pets and others with sick relatives saying hotels have pumped up their prices so much it is prohibitive.

Two women who were riding out the storm dance to the music outside the Barbary Coast bar in downtown Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast, September 13, 2018.

The National Weather Service is forecasting "significant" river flooding, especially in the northeastern portion of the state.

"Do not relax, do not get complacent".

He spent the last few hours of calm before the storm visiting those who stayed, collecting contact information for their next-of-kin.

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Keith Acre of North Carolina's Department of Emergency Management said: "This has been a really large evacuation and sheltering operation, probably the largest we've done, so that has not been an east lift".

Governor Roy Cooper requested the added disaster declaration on Thursday (local time) because he anticipates what his office calls "historic major damage" across the state from the hurricane.

Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds. Several airlines are allowing customers impacted by the hurricane to book flights again without paying additional fees but some fliers say that does not make finding flights any easier.

"We can not underestimate this storm".

On Thursday evening, Florence's forward movement was just 5mph.

"Hurricane-force winds" had begun hitting the state's coast, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an 11 p.m. EDT update. Overall, the storm is 400 miles wide.

Many spent the night in shelters, sleeping in corridors with their pets, belongings and family members. Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com estimates Florence could dump about 18 trillion gallons (68 trillion liters) of rain.

The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".

"Every bit of data we collect helps", Waugh said. The company said as many as three-fourths of its 4 million customers in North Carolina and SC could lose power.

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