Hurricane Florence: Giant, slow-moving storm causes deluge as it makes landfall

Hurricane Florence: Giant, slow-moving storm causes deluge as it makes landfall

Hurricane Florence: Giant, slow-moving storm causes deluge as it makes landfall

Florence was one of two major storms threatening millions of people on opposite sides of the world.

The news came more than 10 hours after the storm began punishing the coastal area with sustained hurricane-force winds, the hurricane center said.

By Friday evening, the center of the storm had moved to eastern SC, about 15 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

The now Category 1 storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 miles per hour (135 kph) by nightfall.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday afternoon, but warned it would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and into the northeastern coast of SC in spots.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said radar and rain gauges indicated some areas got as much as 2½ feet of rain, which he called "absolutely staggering".

"This storm is relentless and excruciating", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told CNN late on Friday.

A piece of corrugated metal blown by winds from Hurricane Florence just misses a state patrolman as people move a wood and metal structure that was blown onto the roadway, in Florence, South Carolina, on September 14, 2018.

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More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught on the coast would last for hours and hours because Florence had come nearly to a dead halt at just 3 mph (6 kph) as of midday.

Hurricane-force winds extended 130km from its centre, and tropical storm-force winds reached out to 315km.

Nearly 800,000 people are reported to be without power already in North Carolina, and officials have warned restoring electricity could take days or even weeks.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing cinderblock motel at the height of the storm.

Florence flattened trees, buckled buildings and crumpled roads. Almost 900,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said.

The dead included a mother and baby who were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Current wind gusts are shown below.

One resident, restaurant owner Tom Ballance, told the Associated Press he now thinks he should have evacuated.

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"I had a lot of fear initially but I'm glad to be inside and safe", said Zelda Allen, 74, a retired tax accountant from Hampstead, North Carolina, who was riding out the storm at Wilmington's Hotel Ballast with her husband.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225 km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line. It blew ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

Forecasters believe the biggest danger right now is the water, not the wind.

Rain is coming in very heavily in the Piedmont Triad Saturday morning, particularly in the southern counties. The storm is some 645 kilometres wide. In addition, the flooding will intensify as the rain drains into the rivers. Some areas of SC could see rainfall totals of up to 15 inches, forecasters said.

About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

Satellites will continue to monitor the progress of Hurricane Florence from space to make more accurate predictions about where it's heading next.

The National Weather Center predicts another 20 to 25 inches of rain for the areas surrounding the Carolinas' border, with 30 to 40 inches in some places.

It will likely take until Monday, however, before the threat of significant heavy rain is over, and it will still rain at times.

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