Mum, baby victims in fury of Florence
HURRICANE Florence has barrelled into the Carolina coast and moved inland, knocking down trees, flooding rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the deaths of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.
A mother and her baby died when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina. The child’s injured father was taken to hospital. Another woman died of a heart attack, with paramedics trying to reach her blocked by debris.
A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords and a man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his dogs.
Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the fivestep Saffir-Simpson scale with 195km/h winds on Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore.
The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm yesterday, but warned that life-threatening storm surges — in which water is pushed by a storm over land that would normally be dry causing catastrophic freshwater flooding — were still expected.
The centre of the hurricane’s eye came ashore close to Wilmington, with sustained winds of 150km/h, the NHC said.
By yesterday evening, the centre of the storm had moved to eastern South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 112km/h.
Parts of North and South Carolina were forecast to get as much as a metre of rain.
More than 60 people, including many children, were evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds collapsed part of the roof. Many of the evacuees took their pets.
Atlantic Beach, on the Outer Banks barrier islands, had received 76cm of rain, the US Geological Survey said.
The White House said President Donald Trump had spoken with officials, assuring them the Federal Government was prepared to help. Mr Trump planned to visit the region next week.
Nearly 900,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas yesterday, utility officials said. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.
The storm was expected to move across parts of south-east North Carolina and eastern South Carolina yesterday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains, the NHC said. Significant weakening was expected over the weekend.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm.
High and dry: A boat wedged in trees during Hurricane Florence in Oriental, North Carolina. Picture: Angie Propst/AP