More than 870,000 without power as Florence lumbers inland

Katie Ramirez
September 16, 2018

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North Carolina officials said there had been at least seven storm-related fatalities in the state, with unconfirmed reports of a further three deaths.

Mother Lesha Murphy-Johnson and her baby, Zac, were killed after being trapped inside their home in Wilmington when a tree fell onto the roof at around 9.30am on Friday.

A few moments later, the camera panned away and two people were seen walking behind Seidel, appearing to have no problem with the wind.

"Rivers are rising to risky levels, and the relentless rains will continue through the weekend", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned on Friday.

Florence "will continue to track slowly inland through the Carolinas this weekend", the National Weather Service said in its 8:00 a.m. update Saturday.

The total extent of devastation from Florence, which has turned from a hurricane into a tropical storm, remains unknown as rain and flooding continue to wreak havoc in the Carolinas.

As of 5 a.m. ET, top sustained winds had dropped to near 80 km/h with higher gusts, and Florence is expected to become a tropical depression later Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

By Friday evening, the center of the storm had moved to eastern SC, about 15 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

Tropical Storm Florence is causing flash flooding and major river flooding over a "significant portion" of North and SC, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people were safely rescued in the town of 30,000 residents.

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Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City. "These are folks who are maybe in one-story buildings and they are seeing the floodwaters rise".

New Bern resident Dan Eudy said he and his brother were awakened on Thursday night by the sound of a boat ramming against his front porch. They ventured out in life jackets into the waste-deep water to tie the boat and another floating by to a tree. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later cancelled. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

Before sunrise, high winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro N.C., on September 14, 2018.

On Saturday evening, Duke Energy said heavy rains caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station outside Wilmington, North Carolina. More than 26,000 hunkered down in shelters. Numerous evacuees took their pets. Atlantic Beach, located on the state´s Outer Banks barrier islands, had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the US Geological Survey said.

The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help. Trump planned a visit to the region next week.

Almost 900,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said.

"Unfortunately, Duke Energy has spent years lobbying and litigating and still has not removed the coal ash from its unsafe riverfront pits in the coastal area, some of which are in the floodplain", said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who has battled the company in court.

Storm Florence has battered the eastern U.S. coast with non-stop rain, surging seawater and howling winds.

Heavy rains and storm surge created destructive flooding of several feet throughout the Carolina coast.

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.

Water rescues were continuing on Saturday.

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