Florence punishes Carolinas with torrential rain, flooding; 8 dead

Tropical Storm Florence yesterday trudged inland, flooding rivers and towns, toppling trees and cutting power to almost a million homes and businesses as it dumped huge amounts of rain on North and SC, causing five deaths. But its slow march over the two states, crawling west at only 2 miles per hour (3 km per hour), is expected to leave large parts of the region deluged in the coming days.

Two others died in the state from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator inside their home, according to a local coroner.

A downed tree and water from the Neuse river are seen on a flooded street during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, on September 14, 2018.

Power outages affecting more than 900,000 in Carolinas.

"The fact that there haven't been more deaths and damage is fantastic and a blessing", said Rebekah Roth, walking around Wilmington's Winoca Terrace neighborhood.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm would dump as much as 76cm to 102cm of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern SC, as well as up to 25cm in southwestern Virginia.

Florence peaked at a terrifying Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm ocean water before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

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

"The rainfall is epic and will continue to be", Cooper said.

As many as seven deaths have been attributed to the storm so far. "Don't drive across standing or moving water", the governor said, urging people to heed evacuation orders.

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

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds as of Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore.

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Hurricane Florence deluges the Carolinas
By early evening, almost 70,000 residents were without electricity, according to North Carolina Emergency Management. The NHC went on to say that a few tornadoes could form in eastern and southeastern North Carolina into Friday.

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Predictions now have the storm stalling and making a slight southward turn after it makes landfall. North and SC and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has been lashed by torrential rains and near-hurricane force winds, CBS News correspondent Don Dahler reported.

The centre of the storm moved slowly westward on Saturday across the Carolinas, bringing further heavy rain and flooding, the US National Hurricane Centre says.

Southern and western North Carolina: An additional 10-15 inches, with storm total accumulations up to 20 inches in western North Carolina and up to 40 inches in southeast North Carolina. The father was transported to a nearby hospital to receive treatment for injuries he sustained. In the state´s Pender County, a woman died of a heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.

Two other men were killed in Lenoir County, North Carolina - electrocuted in separate incidents, according to CNN.

In North Carolina, rivers rose to record levels and more people have been asked to evacuate as authorities worry another round of flooding could come in the next few days.

New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people in all were rescued in the town of 30,000 residents without any serious injuries or deaths. Some area residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit.

"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 to a hotel some almost 130km away. The storm was once a powerful Category 4 storm but became a slow-moving Category 1 storm when it made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina, on Friday.

"The cost to SC, if that happens, if the storm continues the way it is going, could be in the billions", Dahler said.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door to door to pull more than 60 people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

Northern South Carolina and southwestern Virginia: 5 to 10 inches, isolated 15 inches.

The White House released a photograph showing Trump seated at a desk with a phone to his ear and Vice President Mike Pence standing nearby.

Trump, who plans a visit to the region next week, tweeted his "deepest sympathies and warmth" to the families and friends of those who had lost their lives.

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