Florence turns deadly, unleashing torrential floods on Carolinas

Hurricane Florence from above: Startling images of the huge storm from the International Space Station

Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding.

Tragedy struck one family when a tree fell on a house; a mother and child were killed.

A fallen tree lies atop the crushed roof of a fast food restaurant after the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018.

Five people, including an infant, were killed as Florence battered the North Carolina coast on Friday. The father was transported to a hospital for treatment.

"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, D, said.

No storm-related deaths or serious injuries were reported in the hours immediately after Florence hit.

Florence was inching along Friday night, trapping people in flooded homes and promising days of destruction and human suffering.

The WXCHARTS map shows the deadly eye of the hurricane moving across North Carolina with wind gusts reaching 131km per hour until subsiding to 80km per hour on Sunday.

"I built this house myself, so I'm not anxious at all, I know it's solid", he said.

Top winds were holding at 90 miles per hour - that's just a Category 1 hurricane - but some communities were already submerged in more than six feet of water as the storm drenched the coast.

Authorities in New Bern, a town of about 30,000 people that dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. That number was down to 40 later in the day.

These types of slow-moving storms - like Hurricane Harvey - can be particularly risky because of the rain and flooding they can bring. "You're going to have flooding miles and miles inland", the center's director, Ken Graham, said. "I'm not sure if it's a shift in the wind or low tide - but the water has miraculously disappeared". Expert scientists, however, had said they were anxious about Brunswick because of scant public information about its readiness.

The National Hurricane Center said a gauge north of Wilmington in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 1.92 metres of inundation. "People who live in New Bern have experienced hurricanes before, but it has been a long time since we have experienced something like this".

More than 2,700 people took refuge at shelters, according to Horry County Spokesperson Kelly Moore.

"It looks heavy outside", she said.

"It was pretty bad".

Still, she said, "I think we're going to stay put", noting her neighborhood's past success in avoiding power outages and flooding.

At least 150 people are still waiting to be rescued from the attics and rooftops of their homes as of 1 p.m. Friday, said New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw, whose adult daughter had 1 foot of water in her own home, he said. "I wonder how it would have been with a Category 4 or 5?" said Mason Tarr, standing on the steps of the building where he sought shelter the night before.

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