Eight dead in Florence storm

Florence's deluge testing South Carolina infrastructure

Police in Wilmington, North Carolina, near where the hurricane made landfall, said a mother and her infant were killed when a tree fell on their house.

In New Bern, a riverfront city near the North Carolina coast that saw storm surges of up to 10 feet (three meters), residents took stock of the damage after flood waters began receding and authorities rescued hundreds of people who had been stranded.

Hurricane Florence is dumping rain on North Carolina and pushing a storm surge taller than most humans onto communities near the coast.

The Florence center is crawling inland over SC, but its main rain bands are hitting already-saturated North Carolina - setting up what may be days of flooding for some communities.

NOAA NOAA / Reuters Hurricane Florence is shown from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) #GOESEast satellite shortly after the storm made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, US, 14 September.

In total, Florence is forecast to dump about18 trillion gallons of rain over North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Maryland before the storm is over.

Florence has already set rainfall records and left tens of thousands of people in shelters and more than one million homes without power, according to a Washington Post report on Saturday.

The National Hurricane Center said as much as 40in (102cm) was expected on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern SC.

Its winds were down to 45 miles per hour. It was downgraded Friday afternoon to a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph (110 kph) before its core slogged into coastal SC hours later.

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Other areas throughout the region reported flooded and impassable roads, downed trees and power lines and power outages of more than 125,000 customers. "These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions", the NWS says.

As of noon, Swansboro, North Carolina, had almost 31 inches of rain, Emerald Isle had over 23, and Wilmington and Goldsboro had about a foot.

Saffo said it could be longer than two weeks before power is fully restored. The great danger now, experts say, is river flooding.

Heavy rains will continue to fall in the Carolinas and heavier rains are expected to spread into western parts of North Carolina, in addition to some parts of eastern Tennessee and eastern Georgia, Doll said.

"We were really blessed on this one", said Matt Paulson, a two-decade resident of coastal North Carolina who owns the First Light restaurant in Corolla. "We're trying to educate and protect Floridians so they don't fall victim to Irma for a second time".

"The storm is wreaking havoc on our state, and we're deeply concerned for farms, for businesses, for schools and even for whole communities that might be wiped away", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

More than 10 million people are under hurricane watches or warnings and 1.7 million have been ordered to evacuate the coast.

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". "It's like are you gonna stay here or are we going to go ahead and leave?"

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