More than 870,000 without power as Florence lumbers inland

Cristina Cross
September 17, 2018

The National Hurricane Center said late Thursday that Florence has brought a life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds to the North Carolina Coast.

Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday at 100mph as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140mph earlier this week when it was classified as a Category 4. It is now at Category 1.

The flooding soon spread into SC, swamping places like North Myrtle Beach, in a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared past year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000.

Warning of looming storm surges of nine to 12 feet (2.7-3.6 meters), he urged residents to take the storm seriously no matter the category, saying "this is all about the water anyway".

Hurricane Florence approaches North and SC, a veteran reporter has issued a dark warning to those refusing to flee.

North Carolina activated 2,800 National Guard personnel, and SC called up 2,100 of its National Guard soldiers to be ready to aid in recovery efforts once the storm has passed.

In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images A man tries to cross the street during the heavy rain of outer bands of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina.

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).

Another Wilmington resident said she does not want to leave because she is afraid to see what she would be coming back to. "But we can't replace us so we chose to come here".

In its 1 a.m. Friday update, the NHC said Florence was about 45 miles east of Wilmington, NC, packing maximum-sustained winds of 90 mph.

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Being such a small number, first responders have made clear to them the situation when the storm makes its expected complete landfall by 8 a.m. Friday morning.

Florence has been bearing down on the Carolinas for days, and it has expanded in size, with tropical-storm-force winds extending almost 200 miles from the storm's eye.

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

"It's looking a little grim", said Kelly Starbuck, 48, a photographer who grew up on Wrightsville Beach, a town of about 2,500 people, as she stood on high ground about a half-mile inland and peered through a long lens at her family home, which was under a mandatory evacuation order.

Myrtle Beach, a SC beach resort, was virtually deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.

On Monday, with the storm appearing to shift south, McMaster, the SC governor, ordered schools in Aiken County, near the Georgia line, to close for the rest of the week to free up shelter space for hurricane evacuees.

Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. Listen to local officials, and make sure you heed their advice.

As the Carolinas braced for the storm Thursday, roads and tourist shops were closed, regional flights were canceled and residents who didn't evacuate were working to protect their property against the severe weather ahead.

"The shelters are not taking dogs", Ramirez said.

Several large trees had toppled in the city's historic district.

"I told him that we appreciate all the efforts at the federal level", Saffo said.

Perched on the porch of his home, carpenter Tony Albright was calmly awaiting Florence's arrival, beer in hand.

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