Florence kills 4, including infant, in North Carolina, officials say

Cristina Cross
September 16, 2018

Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. on Friday as a hurricane with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour - making it a Category 1 storm.

Its storm surge and the prospect of 1 to 3½ feet of rain were considered a bigger threat than its winds, which had dropped off from an alarming 140 miles per hour - Category 4 - earlier in the week.

Some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges as high as 10ft (3m) in places. The storm is expected to lumber into far southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC through Saturday, punishing the area with rain and damaging winds.

Duke said it has 20,000 workers, including workers from utilities in other states and Canada, ready to restore power when it is safe to do so.

Wind speeds are only expected to weaken on Saturday as the storm moves slowly across land.

New Bern Police Lt. David Daniels said early Friday morning that between 150 and 200 people had been rescued so far, with others still waiting for help.

The NHC said hurricane-force winds extended outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 195 miles out.

"This storm will bring destruction", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.

Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls westward across the Carolinas all weekend.

Record water levels occurred at Wrightsville Beach, said NOAA's Ocean Service, which reported the ocean "reached reached 4.11 ft above high tide, breaking a record set by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015 by more than a foot".

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

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised that there are now 96 New Zealanders officially registered with SafeTravel as being in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

In the town of New Bern, 30,000 residents stayed behind in spite of mandatory evacuation orders.

Officials have warned people against entering attics, so as to avoid drowning, unless they have a means to cut through to the roof.

More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire.

In a display of the early effects of the storm, one flood gauge on the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina, showed 10 feet (three meters) of flooding, the NHC said. With Florence, "we're looking at the same amount of rainfall in three days".

"We are expecting several more days of rain and our focus now is getting people away from immediate danger and then we will shift to putting our communities back together", Cooper said Friday.

Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic.

Many thousand more power customers were without electricity in northeastern South Carolina Friday night.

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