Florence punishes Carolinas with torrential rain, flooding; 8 dead

This retired Marine is rescuing storm victims in his military transport vehicle

Tropical Storm Florence, downgraded from a hurricane Friday, remains over the Grand Strand Saturday with the National Weather Service warning of potential flash flooding and storm surge.

Authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of up to 7,500 people living within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of a stretch of the Cape Fear River and the Little River, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the coast.

60 primary roads have been closes, with more closures expected.

Wind gusts as high as 60 miles per hour were recorded in the Myrtle Beach area.

Duke Energy said Saturday night that heavy rains from Florence caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast.

The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity.

It's about the water, not the wind, with Florence making an extended stay along the North Carolina coast.

As it made landfall on the USA southeast coast on Friday, Florence buckled buildings, flooded entire communities and left more than 900,000 homes and businesses without power.

He said five deaths were confirmed from the storm and "several others are under investigation". Forecasters say "it can not be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard posed by the slow-moving storm is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland".

"Please be safe and be smart and use your common sense", Cooper added.

Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 190kmh winds on Thursday.

Zooming out to the full projection, shown above, the core of the storm is slated to enter North Carolina around 2 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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Jennifer Morales, 20, was one of those evacuated from her home with her husband and son, who turns 2 next month. Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.

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After landfall, the storm is expected to linger over the area for a few days, which would result in rising river levels and lakes. Experts agreed that despite Florence losing some power, it was still poised to sow just as much destruction - if not more.

There have been seven storm-related deaths since Florence, then a Category-1 hurricane, made landfall Friday morning. The child's injured father was taken to hospital.

Another individual's death was reported Friday in coastal Pender County though few details are known. First responders couldn't reach her due to debris-blocked roads. "Many people who think the storm has missed them have yet to see its threat".

In Lenoir County a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords and another man died after being blown away by high winds while checking on his dogs.

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

With flood waters rising rapidly in many communities, stranded people were being rescued by boat and by helicopter, while tens of thousands of others hunkered down in shelters.

Across the Trent River from New Bern, Jerry and Jan Andrews returned home after evacuating to find carp flopping in their backyard near the porch stairs.

Some local residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit early on Friday.

"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern.

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.

Firefighters arrive at a home where a large tree fell on that had three people trapped, after Hurricane Florence hit the area, on September 14, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Across the two states there are some 30,000 people staying in emergency shelters.

In South Carolina's Myrtle Beach, Victor Shamah, the owner of The Bowery bar, made a decision to open because people "wanted to eat, they didn't have any place to eat".

"When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria", Trump tweeted, appearing to attribute the quote to the Washington Post.

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