Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Research | By Clarence Powell

Hurricane Florence: North Carolina devastated by ‘CATASTROPHIC’ floods

Hurricane Florence: North Carolina devastated by ‘CATASTROPHIC’ floods

Hurricane Florence made landfall on North Carolina's Atlantic coast early Friday, triggering a life-threatening storm surge of floodwater kilometers inland and tearing apart buildings with strong winds and heavy downpours.

The storm made landfall Friday at 7:15 a.m. ET just south of Wrightsville Beach - about 6.5 miles due east for Wilmington, North Carolina. It will likely weaken more on Friday, with "rapid weakening forecast over the weekend", the hurricane center said.

In Wilmington, near where the eye of the hurricane touched down, trees and power lines were down and many windows had been broken.

"A big worry about Hurricane Florence is that it's not acting like a normal hurricane", said Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher, reporting from Wilmington, North Carolina.

Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of sea water. The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.

Florence's rain will reach 40 inches in some parts of the Carolina coasts, and gusty winds will send the ocean and rivers spilling into neighborhoods, forecasters said. "Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other unsafe conditions", the hurricane center briefing said.

Ominously, forecasters said the onslaught on the North Carolina-South Carolina coast would last for hours and hours because the hurricane had come nearly to a dead stop at just 3 mph (6 kph) as of midday.

Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to drop torrential rain across the state as the system moves into SC.

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The NHC said hurricane-force winds extended outward 80 miles (130 kms) from the centre of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 195 miles (315 kms) out. Roof shingles were peeled off a hotel.

Wind gusts of up to 100 miles per hour were reported at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, the hurricane center said.

In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River trapped people, and Mayor Dana Outlaw told The Charlotte Observer that about 200 had been rescued by 5 a.m. Residents reached out for help through the night by phone and social media.

"Pretty soon I had a hundred of my closest friends out here helping us out", Britt said. Then came the water. "Right now it's too early to say if anyone should be getting rid of their supplies just yet".

"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house.

More than 2,700 people took refuge at shelters, according to Horry County Spokesperson Kelly Moore.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster asked people to remain patient during a last-minute news conference before Hurricane Florence begins to impact the state.

Winds bent trees towards the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence moved in for an extended stay, with enough of its killer winds swirling overseas to maintain its power.

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