South Carolina

UPDATES: Florence drifts over Carolinas, forecast to bring on river flooding

Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Florence are producing flash flooding and major river flooding in the southeastern part of North Carolina.

The National Hurricane Center says excessive amounts of rain are being dumped on the state. It says the effect is expected to be "catastrophic."

In its 2 a.m. update Sunday, the center also says an elevated risk of landslides is now expected in western North Carolina as heavy rains spread there.

And the threat is not only limited to North Carolina and South Carolina. Forecasters say heavy rains are eventually expected early in the week to head into parts of West Virginia and the west-central portion of Virginia - also at a risk of dangerous flash floods and river flooding in those states.

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Latest Florence outlook:

  • Florence has been downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm, moving west at 6 mph
  • 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 of Florence on Saturday, 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
  • Flash Flood Warnings have been issued for Anson, Cabarrus, Union, Richmond, Rowan and Stanly counties
  • Flood Warnings have been issued for Rowan County and Cleveland County in North Carolina, and York County in South Carolina
  • 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 up to 10 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
  • By 11 p.m. Saturday, more than 7,600 customers in Mecklenburg County were without power, along with 3,600 in Union County and 2,800 in Anson County
  • Florence's max sustained wind speed dropped to 40 mph and the core of the storm was located about 40 miles east-southeast of Columbia
  • Coastal cities have 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 635,000 in North Carolina and 163,000 in South Carolina
  • Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters
  • The 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 battered the North Carolina coast
  • The threat of tornadoes will increase further inland on Saturday


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[SPECIAL SECTION: Tracking the Tropics]

[UPDATES: Florence topples trees, knocks out power around Charlotte region]

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[Photos: Hurricane Florence batters Carolinas]

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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.

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

10:55 p.m.

At 11 p.m. Sunday, Florence was about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east-southeast of Columbia, South Carolina. It has top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and is moving to the west at 3 mph (6 kph).

9 p.m.

Record flooding is expected on North Carolina's Cape Fear River in the coming week, and signs of the coming flood are already apparent.

The Cape Fear River is predicted to crest at 62 feet (nearly 19 meters) in Fayetteville on Tuesday.

Weekend rains have soaked the city and the surrounding area. Officials have warned the river could swell more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) past its banks. The nearby Little River, which feeds into the Cape Fear River, is also set to experience record flooding.

On U.S. Route 401, rain accumulated in ditches and unharvested tobacco crops along the road. Ponds had already started to overflow, and creeks passing under the highway charged with muddy, brown water.

John Rose owns a furniture business with stores less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the Cape Fear River. When he heard about possible flooding, he moved quickly to empty more than 1,000 mattresses from a warehouse located in a low-lying strip mall threatened by the coming surge of water. Rose says that "if the river rises to the level they say it's going to, then this warehouse is going to be under water."

8:10 p.m.

Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station outside Wilmington, North Carolina.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Saturday evening that about 2,000 cubic yards (1,530 cubic meters) of ash have been displaced at the Sutton Plant and that contaminated storm water likely flowed into Sutton Lake, the plant's cooling pond. The company hasn't yet determined if the weir that drains the cooling pond was open or whether any contamination may have flowed into the swollen Cape Fear River.

Sheehan says the company had reported the incident to state and federal regulators.

Sutton was retired in 2013 and the company has been excavating ash to remove to safer lined landfills. The gray ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.

Florence slammed into the North Carolina coast as a large hurricane Friday and has since flooded rivers and left destruction and several people dead.

7:55 p.m.

The core of Tropical Storm Florence is now drifting westward over South Carolina, threatening more flash floods and major river flooding.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence was located around 8 p.m. Saturday about 65 miles (100 kilometers) east-southeast of Columbia, the South Carolina capital. Its top sustained winds have dropped some to 45 mph (75 kph) and Florence is crawling along at 2 mph (4 kph).

Forecasters say that Florence is still a dangerous storm and is expected to dump excessive rainfall on wide areas of North Carolina and South Carolina. They also say the storm could kick up a few tornadoes on its trek across the region.

The large storm came ashore earlier in the week as a hurricane, flooding rivers, forcing high-water rescues and leaving several people dead amid a trail of destruction.

7:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is tweeting his sympathies and condolences for victims of Florence.

In a tweet Saturday evening, Trump said five deaths had been recorded so far in the storm's wake. Officials had already raised the death toll to 11 by the time of the tweet, which followed a White House briefing.

Trump tweeted: "Deepest sympathies and warmth go out to the families and friends of the victims. May God be with them!"

Florence, which came ashore as a large hurricane earlier in the week, is slowly crawling inland across the Carolinas after dumping heavy rains and causing severe flooding. The flooding threat continues in the region.

5:35 p.m.

Authorities say three more people have died in North Carolina as a result of Florence.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed the storm-related deaths of an 81-year-old man in Wayne County who fell and struck head while packing to evacuate Friday. That agency also is reporting the deaths of a husband and wife in a house fire that same day in Cumberland County that is linked to the storm.

Authorities did not immediately release further details.


5:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump was briefed by telephone Saturday on Florence's impact on the East Coast.

No details about the content of the president's briefing were released.

The White House issued a photograph showing Trump seated at a desk in the residence holding a telephone receiver to his ear.

Vice President Mike Pence stood nearby.


5:05 p.m.

Officials say high-water rescues have been completed in New Bern, a North Carolina city swamped by flooding from Florence.

The city said in a statement Saturday that 455 people in all were rescued from Florence's floodwaters. Waters began rising there late Thursday as Florence approached as a hurricane.

New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts says there were no significant injuries reported during the rescues, and there have been no fatalities in the city. She says a round-the-clock curfew is in effect until Monday morning, meaning residents shouldn't be out on the streets.

Roberts said around 1,200 people were in local shelters Saturday.

She says thousands of buildings are damaged and calls the destruction "heart-wrenching."


4:30 p.m.

A U.S. Department of Transportation official says additional closures that could last up to a week are expected along a major interstate in North Carolina as flooding worsens.

Jim Ray said on a conference call Saturday with other federal officials that within the next 24 hours, the Cape Fear River is expected to overtake Interstate 95 near Fayetteville. Ray also says the Lumber River is expected to overtake I-95 in Robeson County near the South Carolina state line. Ray says that will prompt closures that could last up to a week.

A 16-mile stretch of I-95 between its intersection with I-40 -- near the town of Dunn -- was already closed Saturday. Law enforcement has set up a detour.

Ray says that closure due to a flash flood was expected to last for about a day.


4:30 p.m.

The Wilmington Police Department said looting is occurring at a Family Dollar store in the city.

Police said management at the store on 13th Street and Greenfield Street have asked officers not to intervene.

4:15 p.m.

A herd of wild horses that roams a northern portion of North Carolina's Outer Banks has survived Florence just fine.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund, a group devoted to protecting and managing the herd of wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs, posted a message on its Facebook page saying the horses were "doing their normal thing -- grazing, socializing, and wondering what us crazy humans are all worked up over."


The Cape Hatteras National Seashore tweeted Saturday that all of the ponies in another herd on Ocracoke Island were safe.

The Cape Lookout National Seashore said in a Facebook post that it would provide an update on a herd of horses at another location -- Shackleford Banks -- just as soon as staff could return to do condition assessments.


3:40 p.m.

Many residents who evacuated North Carolina's Outer Banks ahead of Hurricane Florence are making their way back onto the barrier islands, which were spared from the worst of the storm's wrath.

The residents as well as workers and property owners were being allowed onto the northern portion of the islands beginning Saturday morning. Visitors were expected to be allowed entry to the same area beginning Sunday.


County officials and business owners reported relatively minimal damage, and there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

While the Outer Banks survived Florence fairly unscathed, scientists say they remain incredibly vulnerable to future storms, climate change, and sea-level rise.


3:30 p.m.

Authorities in North Carolina are reporting two more weather-related deaths.

The Duplin County Sheriff's Office said on its Facebook page on Saturday that two people died due to "flash flooding and swift water on roadways."

The deaths bring the death toll from Florence, which came ashore on Friday as a hurricane, to at least seven. All but one of those deaths occurred in North Carolina. One victim died in South Carolina.


2 p.m.

A mandatory evacuation order has been put in place for anyone who lives within a mile of the banks of North Carolina's Cape Fear River and Little River.

Officials from Cumberland County, Fayetteville and the town of Wade issued the order early Saturday afternoon, saying residents there face "imminent danger" from flood waters expected to arrive in the area soon.

Residents are being asked to leave immediately. Officials said flood waters from other areas are accumulating north of the county and filling the river basins beyond their capacities. They asked that the evacuation begin immediately and that everyone within the evacuation areas get out by 3 p.m. Sunday.

Seven emergency shelters are open in the county.


1:30 p.m.

Classes and activities at UNC Charlotte are canceled through 11:59 p.m. Monday.

A notice from the university announced the continued cancellations. Residence halls will remain open.

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12:50 p.m.

Officials in South Carolina are reporting the state's first fatality due to Florence, bringing the storm's overall death toll to at least five.

A 61-year-old woman was killed late Friday when the vehicle she was driving struck a tree that had fallen across Highway 18 near the town of Union.

Capt. Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol said the woman, who was wearing a seat belt, died at the scene. No passengers were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

The tree was about 6 feet above the road surface. Hughes said the vehicle's roof is what struck the tree.

Four weather-related deaths have been reported in North Carolina.


12:35 p.m.

Portions of eastern North Carolina's two interstates are closed because of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Florence's torrential rains and may not re-open before Monday.

The state Department of Transportation says a 16-mile stretch of Interstate 95 between its intersection with I-40 and near the town of Dunn is closed. Law enforcement has set up a detour.

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said Saturday that authorities were still assembling an alternate route for a 5-mile section of I-40 that is closed in both directions near the town of Warsaw, about 70 miles southeast of Raleigh.

The state DOT said on its website that the two roads are expected to re-open by Monday morning.

Trogdon says road conditions are expected to get worse in the immediate future, pointing out the number of closed primary roads in eastern counties had doubled compared to Friday. He urged motorists not to travel east of I-95 or south of U.S. Highway 70.



Flood Warnings have been issued for Rowan County and Cleveland County in North Carolina, and York County in South Carolina.


11:35 a.m.

Evacuation orders have been lifted in several coastal South Carolina counties as Florence continues to dump rain on the state.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order lifting evacuation orders for Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester and the Edisto Beach area of Colleton County effective at noon Saturday.

McMaster had ordered residents in most of the state's coastal counties to evacuate ahead of Florence's arrival. The slow-moving storm is still dumping colossal amounts of rain on North Carolina and parts of northern South Carolina.

Evacuation orders remain in place for Horry and Georgetown counties along South Carolina's northern coast.


11:30 a.m.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper spoke in a news conference warning people in the southeastern part of the state not to go outside. Those who do so, he said, may put themselves at risk and/or impede rescue efforts.

He continued to urge caution that the flood danger from the storm is more immediate today than when it made landfall.

“We face walls of water and more people now face a threat than when the storm was offshore,” he said. “Flood waters are rising and if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking life.”

He also expressed caution for the mountain areas to expect flooding and potential landslides starting tonight.

“Areas that never experienced flooding before may experience it now,” he said.

Residents should log in here to see what roads and structures will be affected by flooding.


North Carolina Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said that widespread flooding can take place and many counties are being monitored.

"We are seeing significant amounts of rainfall and we are positioning assets to be ready to respond when needed," he said.

Major General Gregory Lusk said more North Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen have been sent to help with rescue efforts.

Before concluding the briefing, Cooper urged people to avoid complacency.

“Even though the storm has been downgraded, the rainfall will still be epic,” he said.

He also said they are getting a lot of calls from people who want to help. If you want to contribute, click here or text "Florence" to 20222.


11:10 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence continues to weaken as it dumps dangerous amounts of rain across the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence's top sustained winds have weakened to 45 mph.

At 11 a.m., Florence was moving west at 2 mph, with its center located about 40 miles west of Myrtle Beach.

The storm's extremely slow speed means the risk of catastrophic flooding remains high across both states. Some areas are forecast to receive up to 15 inches more rain, and storm totals could reach over 3 feet in some areas for the week.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says areas like New Bern, North Carolina, could also see additional storm surge as high tide combines with the ocean waters still being pushed ashore by Florence's outer bands.


11 a.m.

Officials have lowered the death toll attributed to Florence to 5.

The latest National Weather Service advisory noted that catastrophic flooding is expected to continue through the weekend, though the storm continues to weaken and will likely be downgraded to a tropical depression by tonight.


10:30 a.m.

Charlotte and Mecklenburg County leaders spoke at a news conference as Tropical Storm Florence bears down on the Charlotte region.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said, "Our focus is to ensure all residents and businesses are prepared for this tropical storm. Hurricane Florence has not just brought Charlotte together, but the entire North Carolina community together."


Charlotte Fire Department Chief Reggie Johnson said the city is still expecting possible record rainfall -- around 8-12 inches.

"Please be prepared, he said. "We are expecting trees to fall, causing power outages. We have two swift water rescue teams and an urban search and rescue team ready.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said that at any given time, they will have 50 percent of their assets working during the storm.

"Stay in your house and spend time with your family," he said.

Liz Babson with the Charlotte Department of Transportation said, "if you don’t need to drive, don’t go out onto the streets -- conditions will get worse."

Martha Thompson with Duke Energy said that currently 11,000 homes are without power in Mecklenburg County but that number will rise. They have dozens of crews staging at Carowinds and the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

She also wanted to let residents know that they will not be able to use bucket trucks in winds above 30 mph -- which are expected.

Call 1-800-power-on if you see lines down or need to report outages.

Angela Broome Powley with the American Red Cross said 420 residents were currently in 11 shelters across the county, and those shelters will remain open as long as needed.


9:55 a.m.

A family was able to escape unharmed after a huge tree crashed onto their house in the Derita neighborhood of north Charlotte.


9:50 a.m.

North Carolina statewide power outage total is 814,351 with the highest concentration in New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Onslow, Carteret, Cumberland, Moore, Robeson, Sampson, Wake counties.


9:45 a.m.

Interstate 40 between Exit 364 and Exit 369 are closed due to flooding, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol. Also, the southbound lanes on Interstate 95 are closed around Exit 71 because of flooding.


9:30 a.m.

North Carolina's Harnett County has declared a mandatory evacuation along a river that's expected to rise to more than 17 feet above flood stage.

On its Facebook page, the county said the evacuation was in effect along the Lower Little River near the Cumberland County line.

The National Weather Service is forecasting the river to crest at Manchester at 35.4 feet at about 8 a.m. Monday. Flood stage is 18 feet.

The previous record crest was 29 feet set during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The river is forecast to reach flood stage sometime after 2 a.m. Sunday.


8:40 a.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

Government aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of Hurricane Florence.

Money also is available to the state, some local governments, and some private nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in those counties.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering here.


8 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to dump dangerous amounts of rain as it continues its slow slog across the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence is moving west at 2 mph, with its center located about 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Maximum sustained winds remained at 50 mph.

The region is being pounded with rain from the slow-moving storm, causing the risk of catastrophic flooding. Southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeast

Parts of North and South Carolina can expect an additional 10 to 15 inches. Storm totals could reach between 30 and 40 inches in some areas.

At 8 a.m. EDT, the Miami-based hurricane center said rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.


6:45 a.m.

Officials now say at least six people have died thus far from Florence.

  • A man was electrocuted in Kinston
  • A man was swept off his feet while checking on his hunting dogs in Lenoir County
  • A mother and infant in New Hanover County when a tree fell on their house
  • Two people on Harkers Island in Carteret County, though their cause of death is unclear


6 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence has not moved much since making landfall early Friday morning, hammering the coast for nearly 24 hours with intense wind and rain.


5:20 a.m.

Trees have already started to topple in Charlotte, blocking major roadways. We have a running list of those incidents here.


5 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence keeps drenching the central Carolinas, with an additional 10 to 15 inches of rain expected before it finally swings north over the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio Valley on Monday.

The National Hurricane Center says top sustained winds have dropped to near 50 mph with higher gusts, and Florence is expected to become a tropical depression later Saturday.

At 5 a.m., the center was all but parked over South Carolina, about 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach, moving west-southwest at just 5 mph and scooping massive amounts of moisture from the sea.


4:55 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Florence is still moving west-southwest at 5 mph, but the storm's maximum sustained winds have dropped to 50 mph.


3:45 a.m.

In Carteret County, there have been 36 rescues overnight. Emergency crews have also rescued at least nine animals -- and they expect that number to rise. Though there are still some people trapped by flood waters, all rescue operations have been suspended.

Rescue crews will start back up when the sun rises.

The majority of these rescues have occurred in Newport, North Carolina, which is 10 miles northwest of Morehead City.


3 a.m.

Severe Weather Center 9 says the Charlotte region will be at high-risk for excessive rainfall Saturday, and once the rain picks up after noon, it will stay heavy.

Major flooding is likely, especially from Charlotte to the east.


2:30 a.m.

Meteorologist Keith Monday says the showers that are already creeping into the Charlotte region are putting out strong winds -- and those conditions will only worsen as the day goes on.

According to the National Hurricane Center's 2 a.m. advisory, Florence is creeping west-southwest at 5 mph, with maximum sustained winds at 60 mph.


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.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper calls Florence the "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities.

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.

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

Florence already has proven deadly with its nearly nonstop rain, surging seawater and howling winds, and the threat is days from ending as remnants of the once major hurricane slowly creep inland across the Carolinas.

Some towns have received more than 2 feet of rain from Florence, and forecasters warned that drenching rains with as much as 3½ feet of water could trigger epic flooding well inland through early next week. At least four people have died, and authorities fear the toll will go higher as the tropical storm crawls westward Saturday across South Carolina.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds its way across land.

"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending," Cooper said.

As 400-mile-wide Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach more than 360 people besieged by rising waters in New Bern, North Carolina, while many of their neighbors awaited help. Dozens more were rescued from a collapsed motel.

Florence flattened trees, buckled buildings and crumpled roads. The storm knocked out power to nearly 930,000 homes and businesses, and the number could keep rising.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. Also, a 77-year-old man was apparently knocked down by the wind and died after going out to check on his hunting dogs, Lenoir County authorities said, and the governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain.

Storm surges - the bulge of ocean water pushed ashore by the hurricane - were as high as 10 feet.

Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth," he said.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm later, its winds weakened to 60 mph as it moved forward at 5 mph about 15 miles west-northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind. Morehead City, North Carolina, had received 23 inches of rain by Friday night with more torrents on the way.

Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain.

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

For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

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

The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of said Florence could dump a staggering 18 trillion gallons of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with nearly 4 inches of water, he calculated.

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.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door to door to pull more than 60 people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

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

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," the city tweeted around 2 a.m. Friday. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU."

Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighborhood during Florence's assault.

"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard ... We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees," said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled. She was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.

Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs and were left her shaken.

"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington. I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me," she said. "We might leave."

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