Florence continues to pound Carolinas with heavy rain

Brenda Watkins
September 15, 2018

A woman in Pender County, North Carolina, died from a heart attack after calling emergency services, as paramedics could not reach her because of fallen trees.

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.

Florence was moving west-southwest at about 5 miles per hour (7 km/h), with its center located over eastern SC.

Florence maximum sustained winds are now down to 45 miles per hour.

Now, as a tropical storm, Florence is expected to dump an additional 10 to 15 inches of rain in parts of North and SC, with storm totals reaching 30 to 40 inches along the North Carolina coastal area south of Cape Hatteras.

Hurricane Florence remains a significant storm surge and flash flood event, according to the latest public advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

Life-threatening storm surge will continue along portions of the North Carolina coast through Saturday, and also along the Neuse and Pamlico rivers in western Pamlico Sound, where rainfall and freshwater flooding will also contribute to high water levels.

Emergency officials warned residents that the peril had probably not passed, as the storm continued to dump torrential rain. Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds as of Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore.

"The worst of the storm is not yet here, but these are the early warnings of the days to come", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told reporters just before the hurricane made landfall. Federal officials had said midweek they weren't concerned about that facility or five other nuclear plants in the storm's path, calling them "hardened".

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm.

Florence flattened trees, buckled buildings and crumpled roads. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the U.S. electrical grid.

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In fact, the tweet was so disastrous, it was even pushed back by prominent Republicans - which is a rare sight. DeSantis "doesn't believe any loss of life has been inflated", his campaign said in a statement .

The dead included a mother and baby who were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Two died in Lenoir County - a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cables, and another was knocked down by heavy winds.

A gust of 169km/h was recorded at Wilmington airport, surpassing the power of Hurricane Fran two decades ago. More are expected, as the storm could bring winds up to 45 miles per hour around the area, according to Durham County emergency management officials.

One resident, restaurant owner Tom Ballance, told the Associated Press he now thinks he should have evacuated.

"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house. It blew ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.

The hurricane center predicts as much as 101 centimeters (40 inches) of rain for some parts of North Carolina. The storm is some 645 kilometres wide. Forecasters said the torrents could continue for days, touching off disastrous flooding.

Some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges as high as 10ft in places.

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.

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", he said.

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