Hurricane Florence swamps Carolinas, threatening record rainfall, punishing winds

People walk along the beach as they await the arrival of Hurricane Florence

Ominous warning: "Don't focus on the category of the storm".

Hurricane Florence was only 10 miles east of Wilmington, N.C., as it approached landfall early Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Among the dead was a mother and her infant child, who were killed after a tree fell on their house.

The city of New Bern, North Carolina has promised that help is on its way to 150 people trapped by Hurricane Florence's inundation of the small town.

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

Hurricane Florence is being called "once in a lifetime" event. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

Water from the Neuse river floods the streets during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018.

But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.

After the slow-moving storm officially made landfall, it continued dumping heavy rain over parts of North Carolina.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared past year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths in the desperate aftermath.

Florence was one of two major storms threatening millions of people on opposite sides of the world. Another one of the bears ended up in the middle of the street in the background.

It was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina.

The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said people could still leave flood-prone areas.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

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As of 6 a.m., Florence was 10 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday afternoon, but warned it would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and into the northeastern coast of SC in spots.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: "NO WAY" Trump pushes back on ex-lawyer putting out book, cites "attorney-client privilege" Wealthiest Republican supporter in OH quits party MORE, who has been in constant communication with state leaders, declared a state of emergency in North and SC and Virginia ahead of the hurricane.

Organizer Clyde Cain told CNN the Cajun Navy was staged in New Bern and had received more than 500 calls for assistance. Forecasters warned of "catastrophic" freshwater flooding along the Carolinas.

Already, flooding and waters have struck the North Carolina coastal regions.

The NWS reported "lots of tree damage, debris and power lines down" across Harkers Island, N.C.

A weather station at a community college recorded a 100 miles per hour wind gust, and forecasters tweeted that a 91 miles per hour wind gust slammed into Wilmington's airport, surpassing the power of Hurricane Fran two decades ago. Nationwide, airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.

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

Downtown New Bern, on the Neuse River also is flooded. "We are stuck in the attic".

We have wind and rain.

Still, she said, "I think we're going to stay put", noting her neighborhood's past success in avoiding power outages and flooding. More than 60 others had to be rescued as a cinderblock motel collapsed.

Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith did manage to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs, and the experience left her shaken.

"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington".

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