4 dead as Hurricane Florence drenches the Carolinas
WILMINGTON, N.C. » Blowing ashore with howling
90 mph (155 kph) winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster. At least four people were killed.
Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 1 to 3½ feet (30 centimeters to 1 meter) as the hurricaneturned-tropical storm crawls westward across North and South Carolina could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.
(645-kilometer-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, while many of their neighbors awaited help. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm’s fury.
Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and the assault wasn’t anywhere close to being over, with the siege in the Carolinas expected to last all weekend. The storm knocked out power to more than 880,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the U.S. electrical grid.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Florence an “uninvited brute” that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds across the state.
“The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending,” Cooper said. Parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges — the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane — as high as 10 feet
(3 meters), he said. A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. Also, a 77-yearold 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.
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 (225 kph) earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles (kilometers) east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
By Friday evening, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds weakening to 70 mph (112 kph) as it pushed inland. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
Florence’s forward movement during the day slowed to a near-stand
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Rescue team member Sgt. Nick Muhar, from the North Carolina National Guard 1/120th battalion, evacuates a young child as the rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence threatens his home in New Bern, N.C., on Friday.
The mast of a sunken boat sits at a dock at the Grand View Marina in New Bern, N.C., on Friday. Winds and rains from Hurricane Florence caused the Neuse River to swell, swamping the coastal city.