Florence deluges Carolinas ahead of landfall
WILMINGTON, North Carolina — Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas on Friday with howling winds, lifethreatening storm surges and torrential rains as it came to close making landfall in what officials warned is a once in a lifetime event.
Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1 but physically sprawling and dangerous.
Reports said coastal streets in North Carolina were flooded and winds bent trees to the ground as the storm, which has been downgraded several times in recent days, weakened and is slower moving than before, prepared to make landfall on Friday.
Nearly 300,000 people in North Carolina were reported to be without electricity as the outer band of the storm approached.
Footage from TV outlets showed raging waters hitting piers and jettys and rushing across coastal roads in seaside communities.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported “lifethreatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds” along the North Carolina coast.
In a display of the early effects of the storm, one flood gauge on the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina, showed three meters of flooding, the NHC said.
With winds picking up along the coastline earlier on Thursday, federal and state officials had issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the “once in a lifetime” weather system.
“This storm will bring destruction,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “Catastrophic effects will be felt.”
In Wilmington, a steady rain began to fall as gusts of winds intensified, causing trees to sway and stoplights to flicker.
Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“We live in a mobile home so we were just like ‘No way’,” she said. “If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing.
“But we can’t replace us so we decided to come here.”
Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Florence’s forward motion had slowed and it was not expected to make landfall in the Carolinas until “some time Friday afternoon, Friday evening or Saturday morning”.
Some areas could receive as much as one meter of rain, forecasters said.
“This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding,” the NHC said.
A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.
Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned the danger was not only along the coast: “Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that’s what we’re about to see,” he said.
About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.
This storm will bring destruction. Catastrophic effects will be felt.” Roy Cooper,
People walk on a street as water from the Neuse River starts flooding houses upon Hurricane Florence coming ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, on Thursday.