Hurricane Florence: 150,000 lose power as storm pummels Carolinas

MICAH GREEN  THE SUMTER ITEM

Even though the one-time Category 4 tempest has been downgraded to a Category 2, it's still packing lethal 100-mph winds and the potential for 13-foot storm surges and 40 inches of rain, officials warned.

Florence has been bearing down on the Carolinas for days, and it has expanded in size, with tropical-storm-force winds extending almost 200 miles from the storm's eye.

In Sea Breeze, Roslyn Fleming, 56, made a video of the inlet where her granddaughter was baptized because "I just don't think a lot of this is going to be here" after the storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) says storm surges could bring catastrophic flooding to inland areas.

There are fears that this storm could cause damage similar to what Houston suffered during Hurricane Harvey a year ago, when homes and businesses were inundated with floodwater.

Still, the storm has the capacity for huge destruction. Thousands have heeded evacuation orders; others are hoping to cope with the storm in their homes or at local shelters.

Zookeepers and veterinarians resolved to hunker down with the creatures and see them through the storm.

This same zone will be hammered by winds gusting up to hurricane force for almost a day while tropical-storm conditions could linger twice that long. "He is the only caregiver to me and my son", Browning said.

As Hurricane Florence continued to approach North Carolina Thursday the outlook for Savannah continued to improve.

"It truly is really about the whole size of the storm", said National Hurricane Center head Ken Graham.

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"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", Smith said.

Gillikin says the North Carolina Coastal Reserve stands ready to respond with whatever resources they can to help any animal suffering after the storm.

By late Thursday afternoon, the Carolina coasts can expect winds stronger than 80 miles per hour.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad. "And you don't need power to sling booze", said owner Eli Ellsworth.

Image: Waters come ashore in Avon, North Carolina.

The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico previous year. Duke anticipates 1 million to 3 million of their 4 million customers in the Carolinas will lose power from Florence. "Today the threat becomes a reality", he said.

Over 1,400 flights have been cancelled, according to FlightAware.com, as most of the coastal region's airports are closed to ride out the storm. Hotel companies house the workers at apartment villages and took them by bus to the shelter, Strawderman said. They also have three dogs and three parrots.

Memorial University Medical Center received nine patients from other HCA facilities in SC and eight from Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville, Memorial spokesman Dale Hooks wrote in an email.

Despite the surge, a storm surge warning has been discontinued north of Duck in North Carolina. From east to west, the community is less than a dozen blocks deep, with the Atlantic on one side and the Cape Fear River on the other.

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