Florence begins assault on North Carolina coastline

Hurricane Florence still poses grave threat despite weaker winds

If it follows its most likely track, Florence will be the first major storm to make landfall so far north in the US.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence had maximum sustained winds of about 175 kilometers per hour (108 mph) early Thursday, and that it would maintain about that level until the center of the storm makes landfall.

A member of the U.S. Army walks through floodwaters near the Union Point Park Complex as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 13, 2018.

As of Thursday at 8 p.m., forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said wind speeds are 100 miles per hour (155 kph). Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centers to get generators, trash bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm.

WIND: Hurricane conditions have reached portions of the coast of North Carolina and are expected to spread elsewhere within the hurricane warning area overnight or early Friday.

Forecasters say "it can not be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland".

The other threat for those living along the coast is the wall of water known as storm surge that the hurricane's winds and forward movement push on shore.

The National Hurricane Center warned Thursday that Florence will still bring an increased risk of life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic flash flooding and unsafe winds to those states and the surrounding region.

With their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

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A large tropical system, hurricane-force winds extend outward from Florence's center of circulation for eighty miles. Despite the downgrade, Florence is expected to produce catastrophic flooding throughout the Carolinas.

Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing. There are about 150 people waiting to be rescued. Hurricane Florence is now over 500 miles (804 kilometers) in diameter.

There are five swift water rescue teams working in New Bern, assisted by the Cajun Navy volunteer rescue group, says Gene Hodges, assistant county manager with Craven County government, tells NPR's Brakkton Booker. Roberts said numerous residents live near the Neuse and Trent rivers. As the recovery from past storms continues in many rural towns, the next storm is about to strike. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted.

It is then expected to drift southwest along the shoreline before moving inland on Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

U.S. Southeast power companies said more than 188,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina and SC were without power early Friday as Hurricane Florence caused a deluge ahead of its landfall later in the day.

More than 12,000 people fleeing the storm have taken shelter at 126 shelters open across the state. Airlines had canceled almost 1,000 flights and counting. Meanwhile inland regions of the Palmetto State, North Carolina and Virginia are expected to see 6-12 inches of rain, with up to two feet falling in isolated areas.

As of 2 a.m., Florence was centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

"We are completely ready for hurricane Florence, as the storm gets even larger and more powerful".

Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.

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