• UPDATES: Florence's torrential downpours, fierce winds leave devastating flooding in its path

    Updated:

    Latest Florence outlook:

    • Florence was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm Friday evening, moving at 5 mph 
    • According to the National Hurricane Center's 2 a.m. Saturday update, Florence's max sustained wind speed dropped to 60 mph and the core of the storm was located about 15 miles west-northwest of Myrtle Beach
    • Coastal cities reported more than 20 inches of rain in two days
    • Forecasters warned that drenching rains with as much as 3½ feet of water could trigger epic flooding well inland through early next week
    • The storm is some 400 miles wide. Power outages are widespread including over 740,000 in North Carolina and 163,000 in South Carolina. Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.
    • Eyewall of Florence made landfall near Wilmington just after 5:30 a.m. The actual center of the storm made landfall at 7:15 a.m. Friday near Wrightsville Beach
    • Sustained hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surge are battering the North Carolina coast
    • The threat of tornadoes increasing further inland
    • The latest track has the storm taking an inland path with a shift south, putting Charlotte closer to the center of what's left of the circulation
    • The Charlotte-area will start to see the effects this weekend with bands of very heavy rain and heavy flooding threats -- especially for our eastern counties
    • Conditions around Charlotte will go downhill Saturday morning and last all day
    • A flash flood watch was issued Thursday night for most of the Charlotte region and will remain in effect until 8 p.m. Sunday
    • The worst-case scenario for Charlotte includes winds faster than 40 mph and more than 8 inches of rain
    • Quick spin up tornadoes cannot be ruled out now that the most recent track has Charlotte on the north side of the storm


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    >> Governor Roy Cooper said shelters across the state have opened to help people displaced by evacuations. You can find a full list here.

    >> The state has announced the closures of state parks, museums and other sites. For a full list click here.

    >> N.C. State Superintendent Mark Johnson provided this link for a list of districts already closed and other information related to schools across the state.

    >> Airbnb activated its “Open Homes Program” to help those who were evacuated because of Florence in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

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    Minute-by-minute updates on Hurricane Florence (all times local):

    1:30 a.m.

    Tropical Storm Florence is practically stalled over the Carolinas and the monster storm could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet. That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.

    Early Saturday morning Florence's winds weakened to 60 mph as it moved forward at 5 mph and was about 15 miles west-northwest of Myrtle Beach..

    More than 113,300 power outages were reported in New Hanover County, more than 24,000 in Carteret County and more than 25,000 in Johnston County.

    Locally, there are more than 11,900 power outages in Richmond County, 5,200 in Chesterfield County and 5,300 in Mecklenburg County.

     

     

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    11 p.m.

    The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the core of Florence was located at 11 p.m. Friday about 15 miles west-northwest of Myrtle Beach. Top sustained winds are now about 65 mph and the storm is moving to the west-southwest at 5 mph - a track that is expected to continue through early Saturday.

    Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and South Carolina ahead.

    As Florence moves further inland over the coming days, the storm is expected to gradually weaken. Forecasters say it could become a depression by Saturday night.

    10 p.m.

    Authorities said storm surges and wind gusts from Florence have contributed to at least five deaths.

    Officials said those storm-related deaths include a mother and her infant child who died after a tree fell on their home in New Hanover County. Wilmington police said the baby was about eight months old.

    A fallen tree is shown after it crashed through the home where a woman and her baby were killed in Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
    Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    A third person died nearby in coastal Pender County, where an official called it a medical fatality but did not elaborate.

    Officials said another two people died in the city of Kinston. They said a 78-year-old man was electrocuted at his home while trying to connect two extension cords outside in the rain. Governor Cooper had said a person in Lenoir County was killed while plugging in a generator.

     

     

    Authorities said they believe a 77-year-old in Lenoir County died after he was blown away by heavy winds while attempting to check on his hunting dogs.

    __

    10 p.m.

    More than $1 million of donated pet food and supplies is coming to Charlotte in response to Hurricane Florence.

    Restore Global, a local nonprofit, is serving as a national central staging and deployment location for corporate donations.

    On Friday, they received their first truck from Petco and have other trucks on the way.

    All donations will be kept in a warehouse until the state assess the needs. The items will then be distributed.

    "As the requests are coming in through the state, the requests can come to us and that way we can distribute the items as they are needed,” project leader Jorge Ortega said.

    Organizers said their goal is to reduce waste and help make sure donated goods are most effectively used.

    __

    8 p.m.

    President Donald Trump is assuring officials in North Carolina that the federal government is prepared to assist with any help they need as the result of widespread flooding and property damage caused by Florence.

     

     

    Earlier Friday, the president called Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, and Princeville Mayor Bobbie Jones.

    The White House says Trump has been monitoring hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Florence throughout the day and has received updates regarding the impact of the devastating storm.

    __

    7:30 p.m.

    North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the state must be prepared for several additional days of rain, winds and ultimately more flooding before the damage caused by Florence finally ends.

    Cooper said at a news conference Friday that as now-Tropical Storm Florence moves slowly westward this weekend, people living in south-central North Carolina will see flooding, some for the first time. Areas at risk include the cities of Fayetteville and Charlotte and the Sandhills region.

     

     

    Closer to the coast, Cooper says he issued an order to allow sandbagging in and around Lumberton to lessen the effects of a rising Lumber River. Rains starting in the mountains also ultimately could produce mudslides.

    More than 750,000 people are without power in the state, and Cooper says that number is expected to rise.

    The governor announced another mega-shelter would be opening on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That's in addition to a large shelter already open at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem. More than 19,000 people were in over 150 shelters before dawn Friday.

    __

    7:15 p.m.

    Dozens of people in the North Carolina town of Belhaven had to be rescued from the rising waters of Pungo River and a creek that together hem in the sea-level community.

    The downtown area including the municipal building and nearby homes were swamped, starting with the high tide on Thursday evening. Roads into the town of about 1,500 people remained submerged Friday, forcing the retreat of a county ambulance truck and an electricity company repair vehicle that tried to enter from the east and west along the town's main road.

     

     

    Mayor Ricky Credle was holed up at the municipal building Friday afternoon. He says the town is "closed off" amid the highest water downtown that he had ever seen.

    Credle says the sheriff's department used a high-axle truck to rescue some residents who wanted to leave, dropping them off at Red Cross shelters.

    __

    7 p.m.

    Officials at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington have announced the school will remain closed until further notice because of the effects of Hurricane Florence.

     

     

    A memo sent out to school personnel Friday said officials "cannot yet effectively or comprehensively assess the impact on our campus." Because of that, the school said it is unable to determine when it will resume the fall semester. The school will remain closed until further notice.

    The memo said the school will give students and employees as much notice as possible before it reopens, giving weight to travel challenges and other factors. Officials said they can't determine how the closure will affect the academic calendar.

    __

    7 p.m.

    Hikers are having to get off the Appalachian Trail as Tropical Storm Florence continues to dump heavy rains, causing floods and other dangerous conditions in areas the trail passes through.

    The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service have closed portions of the trail in North Carolina and Virginia because of the storms.

    The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is urging hikers to get off the trail and seek shelter. The nonprofit said dangerous conditions could include falling trees, flash floods and mudslides.

    The Appalachian Trail stretches more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine and has more than 3 million visitors each year. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy says more than 3,000 people attempt to hike the entire trail each year.

    __

    7 p.m.

    More than three quarters of a million power outages have been reported in the Carolinas as Tropical Storm Florence slowly creeps across the two states.

    Emails and website tallies from North Carolina utilities show more than 750,000 outages had been reported in North Carolina as of late Friday afternoon.

    Poweroutage.us tracks outages across the country. The service says more than 107,000 outages were reported in South Carolina.

    The storm's top sustained winds have dropped to 70 mph, and it's at a near standstill, moving west at just 3 mph.
    __

    5:50 p.m.

    Swift-water rescue teams are assisting residents of one historic North Carolina community swamped by Hurricane Florence.

    New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told The Associated Press more than 360 people had been rescued by midafternoon Friday, but another 140 were still waiting for help.

    She says crews from the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were working with citizen volunteers to get people to dry ground.

    In this photo released by the City of New Bern, N.C., a bear statue floats in flood waters on South Front street in New Bern, N.C. on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (City of New Bern via AP)

    Roberts says there is widespread damage and power outages in the city but so far no reports of deaths or injuries.

    ___

    5:45 p.m.

    North Carolina Emergency Management said a total of 686,304 customers were without power Friday evening.

    The counties with the highest number of outages were Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Johnston, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Robeson, Sampson, Wake and Wayne counties.

     

    ___

    4:50 p.m.

    Forecasters say Florence is now a tropical storm but will continue to threaten North and South Carolina with powerful winds and catastrophic freshwater flooding.

    Its top sustained winds have dropped to 70 mph, and it's at a near standstill, moving west at just 3 mph.

     

     

    At 5 p.m., Florence was centered about 50 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 25 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

    Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from its center. The National Hurricane Center says Florence is producing tropical storm-force wind gusts in Florence, South Carolina, about 60 miles from the coast.

    ___

    4:25 p.m.

    South Carolina's most popular tourist destination is riding out Hurricane Florence without major problems so far.

    In North Myrtle Beach, rain has been falling nearly all day and tree branches and limbs are on some roads. The power is out on the main strip, but almost no vehicles are on the six-lane highway through the center of town other than police.

    North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling says three-quarters of the area's 37,000 electric customers are without power.

    To the south, Myrtle Beach was faring better. Power outages were spotty, and Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea says no significant property damage has been reported.

    No areas in South Carolina reported problems with surge from the ocean as winds continued from the land pushing water away.

    ___

    4:05 p.m.

    President Donald Trump is preparing to travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence next week.

    White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump will travel to the region "early to middle of next week."

    She adds his trip will take place "once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts."

    Aides say Trump has been monitoring the massive storm from the White House, and he has taken to Twitter to encourage those in its path to listen to their local authorities for how best to remain safe.

    The storm, blamed for at least three fatalities, has inundated parts of the Carolina coast with heavy rain and high winds.

    ___

    3:15 p.m.

    Governor Roy Cooper said at least three people have died in North Carolina because of Hurricane Florence.

    According to authorities, one person was killed in Lenoir County while plugging in a generator. Two people were killed in New Hanover County when a tree fell on a home.

    “Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm,” Cooper said. “Hurricane Florence is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days. Be extremely careful and stay alert.”

     

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    2:55 p.m.

    The Wilmington Police Department confirmed two deaths related to Florence.

     

     

    Police said a mother and infant were killed when a tree fell on their house. The father was transported to the hospital.

    2:45 p.m.

    The Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed starting at 8 p.m. Friday.

    The website says the full closure was put in place in the interest of public safety due to Florence.

    The parkway closure is for all traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists.

    ___

    1:30 p.m.

    The National Weather Service says 14 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen north of Swansboro, North Carolina and it's only going to get worse.

    Weather Prediction Center senior forecaster David Roth said catastrophic flash flooding is expected to continue to worsen Friday.

     

     

    He said that the heavy rainfall for southeast North Carolina is only one-third to one-quarter the way over.

    "Plenty of heavy rain remains in the future for this region," Roth wrote in the weather center's rain forecast discussion.

    ___

    1 p.m.

    Flights are grounded at several airports in the Southeast as Hurricane Florence barges through the region.

    By midday Friday, airlines had canceled more than 2,100 U.S. flights from the storm's approach on Wednesday through Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware.

    The region's two largest airports, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, had more than 200 cancellations on Friday. Raleigh and one in eight at Charlotte.

    That's not much compared with last year's Hurricane Harvey, which flooded runways at two major airports and caused airlines to scrub more than 11,000 flights in Houston alone.

     

     

    The Federal Aviation Administration says Charleston International Airport in isn't expected to reopen until Monday night. Wilmington International expects to reopen at noon Saturday.

    ___

    12:25 p.m.

    Florence's total rainfall will likely be staggeringly huge.

    Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com calculates that Hurricane Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain in seven days over the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.

     

     

    That doesn't quite measure up to the 25 trillion gallons Harvey dropped on Texas and Louisiana last year. Maue says Harvey stalled longer and stayed closer to the coast, which enabled it to keep sucking moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

    Still, 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay. It's enough to cover the entire state of Texas with nearly four inches of water.

     

     

    That much rain is 2.4 trillion cubic feet. It's enough to cover Manhattan with nearly 3,800 feet of water, more than twice as high as the island's tallest building.

    North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough rain to cover the Tar Heel state in about 10 inches of water.

    Maue calculates that 34 million people will get at least 3 inches, with more than 5.7 million getting at least a foot and about 1.5 million getting 20 inches or more.

     

     

    ___

    11:50 a.m.

    North Carolina officials say parts of the state could experience a once-in-a-millennia flood as Hurricane Florence dumps rain for days to come.

    Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday that Florence is "wreaking havoc" and he's concerned "whole communities" could be wiped away.

     

     

    He said parts of the state have seen storm surges as high as 10 feet.

    Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said the state is expecting 1,000-year "flood events" in areas between Wilmington and Charlotte.

    Cooper said the state hasn't seen any Florence-related fatalities so far, but he's concerned about people's safety as the storm continues.

     

     

    ___

    11:40 a.m.

    Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announces they will be closed Monday.

     

     

    ___

    11:20 a.m.

    Rising water forced a North Carolina TV station to evacuate its newsroom in the middle of Hurricane Florence coverage.

    Hours before the storm made landfall Friday, workers at New Bern's WCTI-TV NewsChannel 12 had to abandon their studio.

     

     

    A spokesperson for the ABC affliliate said roads around the building were flooding.

    The weather service later measured a storm surge 10 feet deep in the city, which lies on the Neuse River near the Atlantic coast. It's about 90 miles northeast of Wrightsville Beach, where Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. Friday.

     

     

    Video posted on Twitter showed a meteorologist telling viewers they'd be taken to coverage from sister station WPDE in Myrtle Beach.

    Just after midnight, the station tweeted that everyone had safely evacuated.

    ___

    11:10 a.m.

    Mecklenburg County and Charlotte government offices will close today at noon and remain closed through Monday.

    ___

    10:55 a.m.

    The 11 a.m. advisory on Hurricane Florence says the storm is crawling along the coast. The Category 1 storm still has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and is moving west-southwest at 3 mph.

    The slow pace means there will be long-term devastation along the coast as the storm hovers over it.

     

     

    At 11 a.m., Florence was centered about 20 miles southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 55 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was crawling west-southwest at 3 mph, lifting huge amounts of ocean moisture and dumping it far from the coast.

    Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.

     

     

    Updated power outage numbers from across the state are at close to 500,000.

    ___

    10:40 a.m.

    Officials at Charlotte Douglas International Airport held a news conference Friday morning to discuss preparations ahead of Florence's arrival.

    The airport is expecting high winds and heavy rain. To get ready for the storm, crews have increased inspections of land field and cleared debris. They have also inspected the parking lots.

    Officials said the airport will not close.

     

     

    ___

    10:20 a.m.

    Rivers are rising on the north side of Hurricane Florence as the storm swirls counter-clockwise, pushing a surge of ocean water far in from the coast.

     

     

    Rainfall also is swelling waterways: Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com calculated that 34 million people in the U.S. are forecast to get at least 3 inches of rain from Hurricane Florence, with more than 5.7 million people probably getting at least a foot of rain.

    In Washington, North Carolina, the wind-swept Pamlico River has risen beyond its banks and is flooding entire neighborhoods. Floodwaters submerged U.S. Highway 264, cutting off a major route to other flood-prone areas along the river and the adjacent Pamlico Sound.

     

     

    Downtown New Bern, on the Neuse River also is flooded. The city tweeted early Friday that 150 people were awaiting rescue.

    ___

    10:10 a.m.

    Federal officials are urging anyone who ignored orders to evacuate from Hurricane Florence to hunker down and stay put until the storm passes.

    And they say people who are truly in an emergency should call 911, not just Tweet about it.

     

     

    The disaster area was expected to get about as much rain in three days as the 1999 Dennis and Floyd storms dropped in two weeks.

    About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats. The Army Corps of Engineers were preparing to start work restoring power, installing temporary roofing and removing debris.

     

     

    Charley English of the American Red Cross said anyone wondering how to help from afar can donate blood, registering first at their local Red Cross websites.

    ___

    10 a.m.

    The town of Chesterfield, South Carolina has declared a curfew from 9 p.m. Friday until 7 a.m. Saturday.

    Along the coast, in North Topsail Beach, reporter Mark Barber was reporting extensive damage across the area.

     

     

    ___

    9:40 a.m.

    Wind speeds are kicking up far from the coast in central South Carolina as Hurricane Florence slowly makes its way along the coast.

     

     

    ___

    9:35 a.m.

    Wind speeds are kicking up far from the coast in central South Carolina as Hurricane Florence slowly makes its way along the coast.

    The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of up to 21 mph on Friday morning in Columbia.

     

     

    That's about 220 miles from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. Friday, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

    Wind gusts as high as 60 mph were recorded in the Myrtle Beach area.

    ___

    9:30 a.m.

    Catawba County and Hickory have joined the list of local municipalities that have declared a State of Emergency ahead of Florence's arrival.

    Wells Fargo branches in Charlotte will close at 3 p.m. Friday, and all branches across the state will be closed on Saturday.

    Current statewide outage total is 485,143, with the highest concentration in Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Robeson, Sampson, Wake and Wayne counties.

     

     

    ___

    9:15 a.m.

    Forecasters say the eye of Hurricane Florence is wobbling slowly southwestward just off the coast of southeastern North Carolina, near the border with South Carolina.

    The hurricane's top sustained winds have dropped to 85 mph, while it moves slowly toward South Carolina at 6 mph.

    At 9 a.m. the center of the hurricane was about 55 miles east of Myrtle Beach.

     

     

    ___

    8:15 a.m.

    Hurricane Florence is dumping rain on North Carolina and pushing a storm surge taller than most humans onto communities near the coast.

     

     

    The center of the eye of the hurricane made landfall in Wrightsville and was moving slowly westward just south of Wilmington.

    Coastal and river communities on the north side of Florence are getting the worst of the flooding as the hurricane swirls onto land pushing a life-threatening storm surge.

     

     

    More than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday morning according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.

    ___

    7:40 a.m.

    Hurricane Florence officially made landfall near Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m., according to the National Hurricane Center.

     

     

    The center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 mph, making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.

    Shortly after landfall, Wilmington reported a wind gust of 105 mph, the highest recorded wind gust there since 1958.

     

     

    ___

    7:15 a.m.

    Forecasters say the center of the eye of Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina.

    It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 mph, but a gust of 112 mph was reported just offshore.

     

     

    The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.

    At 7 a.m., the center of the eye was located about 5 miles east of Wilmington, moving west at 6 mph.

    ___

    7:05 a.m.

    It's about the water, not the wind, with Hurricane Florence making an extended stay along the North Carolina coast.

    Forecasters say "it cannot be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland."

     

     

    Top winds were holding at 90 mph -- that's just a Category 1 hurricane -- but some communities were already submerged in more than six feet of water as the storm drenched the coast.

    ___

    7 a.m.

    The city of New Bern, North Carolina has imposed a curfew starting today at 7 a.m. until Saturday at 7 a.m., according to the New Bern Police Department.

    ___

    6:55 a.m.

    Currently, more than 365,000 customers are without power in North Carolina as Hurricane Florence nears landfall. In Carteret County, 99 percent of people are in the dark.

     

     

    ___

    6:30 a.m.

    The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.

     

     

    As of 6 a.m., Florence was 10 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.

    The Miami-based center says Florence is bringing "catastrophic" freshwater flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas.

    ___

    6 a.m.

    The National Hurricane Center's 6 a.m. advisory update on Hurricane Florence says the eyewall of the storm has come ashore near Wilmington, with the center of the storm to make landfall any minute.

     

     

    ___

    5:50 a.m.

    A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence.

    The city of Jacksonville's statement says people have been moved to the city's public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter.

    Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing.

    None of the people rescued were injured.

    ___

    5 a.m.

    The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.

     

     

    As of 5 a.m., Florence was 25 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.

    The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.

     

     

    ___

    4:30 a.m.

    A North Carolina city situated on two rivers says it has around 150 people waiting to be rescued from rising flood waters from Hurricane Florence.

    ['We are coming to get you': Crews work to rescue residents from rising flood waters]

     

     

    The city of New Bern tweeted early Friday that two out-of-state FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more teams were on their way. City spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been rescued.

     

     

    The National Hurricane Center says the Neuse River near the city is recording more than 10 feet of inundation. Roberts says the storm surge continues to increase as Florence passes over the area.

     

     

    The city warns that people "may need to move up to the second story" but tells them to stay put as "we are coming to get you."

     

     

    ___

    4:10 a.m.

    North Carolina's Department of Public Safety is reporting more than 321,000 power outages across the state. That number is expected to grow significantly.

    ___

    4 a.m.

    The National Hurricane Center says the eyewall of Hurricane Florence is beginning to reach the North Carolina coast.

     

     

    As of 4 a.m., Florence was 30 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.

    Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland.

    ___

    3 a.m.

    Life-threatening storm surge is being reported along the coast of the Carolinas.

    The National Hurricane Center said early Friday that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3 feet of inundation. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles north of Wilmington.

     

     

    As of 3 a.m., Florence hadn't moved and was still centered about 35 miles east of Wilmington. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.

    Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

    ___

    2 a.m.

    The National Hurricane Center says that "catastrophic" freshwater flooding is expected over portions of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence inches closer to the U.S. East Coast.

     

     

    The now Category 1 storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 mph by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

    As of 2 a.m., Florence was centered about 35 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles..

    Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

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    Midnight

    Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come.

    Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.

    The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 mph by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

    Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.

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    11 p.m.

    Florence has been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 mph.

    The National Hurricane Center says Florence is now lashing the North Carolina coast with hurricane -force winds and a life-threatening storm surge. It says the threat of freshwater flooding will increase in coming hours and days from the storm's heavy rains.

    The Miami-based center said in an update at 11 p.m. EDT Thursday that the storm's eye was about 50 miles south of Morehead, City, North Carolina. The core is also about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

     

     

    Forecasters say the center of Florence is expected to move inland between Friday and Saturday.

    Far out in the Atlantic, Joyce strengthened into a tropical storm on Thursday evening with top sustained winds of 40 mph. The center says that storm is about 1,040 miles kilometers west-southwest of the Azores and no coastal watches or warnings are in effect. Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Helene is forecast to pass near the Azores on Saturday, and Tropical Storm Isaac is moving west across the eastern Caribbean.

    This item has been corrected to show storm is moving northwest at 6 mph.


    Florence downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane

    Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say conditions will only worsen as the hulking storm slogs inland.

    Screaming winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge whipped the Carolina coast Thursday to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

    The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 90 mph by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

    "The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come," he said. "Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience."

    Cooper requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called "historic major damage" across the state.

    More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

    Prisoners were affected, too. North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

    Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did. The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

    Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City. Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers.

    Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.

    As of 2 a.m., Florence was centered about 35 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.

    A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves nearly 30 feet high as Florence churned toward shore.

    Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.

    Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 mph, the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.

    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.

    The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year.

    As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready," and he disputed the official conclusion that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

    Not everyone was taking Florence too seriously: About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night behind the boarded-up windows of The Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington.

    "We'll operate without power; we have candles. And you don't need power to sling booze," said owner Eli Ellsworth.

    Others were at home hoping for the best.

    "This is our only home. We have two boats and all our worldly possessions," said Susan Patchkofsky, who refused her family's pleas to evacuate and stayed at Emerald Isle with her husband. "We have a safe basement and generator that comes on automatically. We chose to hunker down."

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