Florence punishes Carolinas with torrential rain, flooding; eight dead

Tropical Weather North Carolina

Tropical Weather North Carolina

WILMINGTON: Florence barreled into the Carolina coast and moved inland on Friday, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.

In its initial onslaught along the coast, Florence buckled buildings, deluged entire communities and knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses.

Tropical Storm Florence keeps drenching the central Carolinas and is expected to generate up to 380 millimetres of rain before it swings north over the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio Valley on Monday.

In Kinston, a city southeast of Raleigh, two people died in the storm.

A mother and infant were killed in Wilmington, North Carolina, when a tree fell on their home. The father was transported to the hospital with injuries.

A woman in Hampstead, in Pender County, died of an apparent heart attack after emergency crews could not clear debris to get to her. A 78-year-old man connecting extension cords in the rain was electrocuted, according to Roger Dail, the Lenoir County director of emergency services.

Long accustomed to its residents evacuating north or to other parts of the state when hurricanes threaten, Florida was in the unusual position this week of accommodating diverted cruise ships and hotel-room seekers hoping to escape the wrath of Hurricane Florence, which made landfall Friday morning in North Carolina. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled.

Onslow County spokesman Cornelius Jordan said some visitors at the Triangle Motor Inn were able to drive away on their own, but emergency personnel had to take others to a safe location. "My wife's in a panic right now". "And we had no belief it would be as significant an event as it was", he said. "This is a 500- or 1,000-year event". On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds (193 km).

"If you live in a floodplain and planned on staying, you might need to reevaluate", said Joel Cline, a North Carolina native and meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center.

Duke Energy Corp, the area's biggest utility with more than 4 million customers, estimated the storm could cause between 1 million and 3 million outages.

More than 22,600 people were housed in 150 shelters statewide, including schools, churches and Wake Forest University's basketball arena.

The triple punch of falling rain, rising rivers and coastal storm surges was already triggering catastrophic floods.

Atlantic Beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks islands had already received 30 inches of rain, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

As of 6 a.m., Florence was centered just 10 miles (20 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

The White House said President Trump will tour areas affected by Florence next week, once it is determined that his visit will not disrupt rescue and recovery operations.

Hurricane Florence is tearing through the Carolinas with disastrous flooding and record-setting rainfall.

In Fayetteville, a North Carolina city of about 210,000 people about 90 miles inland, authorities told thousands of residents near the Cape Fear River and Little River to get out of their homes because of the flood risk.

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

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