'Relentless rains' continue as Florence almost stalls over Carolinas

Paul Anthony Menchaca.         Source Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

Paul Anthony Menchaca. Source Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

"For overall damage it will be hard at the end of the day, I think, to find a rival for this storm", said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

At 5 p.m., Florence had been downgraded to a tropical storm, with sustained winds of 70 miles per hour.

The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before dawn in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.

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

Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm with diminished winds, but it has stalled over the Wilmington region as predicted and will continue drenching the area with historic and catastrophic rain, the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m. briefing.

The National Hurricane Center said a gauge north of Wilmington in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 1.92 metres of inundation.

Emergency workers went door to door urging people to flee Florence's rising floodwaters Saturday and rescuers used inflatable boats to pluck others from homes already submerged as the storm's epic deluge swelled rivers and creeks across the Carolinas.

At least five deaths are connected to the storm.

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", Cooper said.

Florence had been a category three hurricane with 120mph winds as of Thursday, but dropped to a category one hurricane before coming ashore.

A video of a live segment of him in Wilmington, North Carolina, shows him bracing his feet on where he's standing, presumably so he won't be blown over during his segment. Hurricane force winds were being felt in an 80-mile radius from the center of the storm.

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More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. It was expected to begin pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm as it moved further inland in the days ahead.

The deaths include two people killed in Lenoir County, and a mother and infant killed in Wilmington, N.C., when a tree fell on a home, according to authorities.

Police confirmed the fatalities on Twitter, saying the father of the child was being transported to a local medical centre to be treated for his injuries. A woman in Pender County, North Carolina, died from a heart attack after calling emergency services, as paramedics could not reach her because of fallen trees. The governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain.

"Doppler radar was showing a band of heavy rain developing off the North and South Carolina Coasts".

"The amount of water and the storm surge was very overwhelming", he said.

Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown area was under water by Friday afternoon.

Response teams had already "brought in busloads" of rescued people from areas including Fairfield Harbor, New Bern, Adams Creek and Township 7, she said.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.

Officials in North Carolina's Harnett County, about 90 miles inland, urged residents of about 1,100 homes to evacuate because the Lower Little River was rising toward record levels.

Whilst gradual weakening of wind speed is expected this weekend, torrential rainfall will continue.

About 70 people were pulled from a motel near Camp LeJeune at the height of the storm as the roof started to collapse.

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