Hurricane Florence's winds start to rake North Carolina coast

UPDATED THU 5 A.M. Map shows probable path of Hurricane Florence.; 1c x 2 1/2 inches 46.5 mm x 63

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. The hurricane centre said Florence will approach the coast Friday and linger for a while before rolling ashore.

The monster storm felled trees all around Wilmington, causing many more close calls and damaging homes and cars. The father was taken to hospital with unspecified injuries.

In New Bern, North Carolina, where the Neuse and Trent rivers intersect, around 200 people were rescued after being stranded in their homes overnight, according to Mayor Dana Outlaw.

The biggest danger, as forecasters saw it, was not the wind but the water: the storm surge along the coastline and the prospect of 1 to 3½ feet of rain over the next several days that could trigger catastrophic flooding in a slow-motion disaster well inland. In a statement, his office said the orders were lifted at 10:45 a.m. after the National Hurricane Center lifted the tropical storm warning for that part of the state. Large, battering waves will ride atop this surge. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

After the storm makes landfall, it will slow down and begin to crawl to the west and southwest along the coast into SC on Saturday.

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

It's unclear exactly how many people evacuated, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

In New Bern, where a curfew was in place, city authorities said hundreds of people had been rescued from homes inundated with water.

A tornado watch was issued for eastern North Carolina.

Its landfall may be over southern parts of North Carolina affecting North and SC as well as Virginia by Friday morning local time.

But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

With South Carolinas beach towns more in the bulls-eye because of the shifting forecast, OH vacationers Chris and Nicole Roland put off their departure from North Myrtle Beach to get the maximum amount of time on the sand.

"We're still expecting high winds until dark, so I'd say not to go out on the roads and to abide by the curfew rules", Garner said.

Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach about 7:15 a.m. Friday as a Category 1 hurricane (74-95 mph). Wind gusts of 105 miles per hour - the highest recorded since 1958 - were reported in Wilmington Friday morning. They're predicting a potential million to 2.5 million people without power and so that is going to be a painstaking and unsafe process, so I'm telling people to stay where you are.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour (160 kph), but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage.

Duke said it had more than 20,000 personnel ready to start fixing outages as soon as conditions allowed, including over 8,000 from the Duke's Carolinas utilities, 1,700 from the Midwest, 1,200 from Florida and 9,400 from other utilities.

Roslyn Fleming, 56, said her granddaughter was baptized in the inlet near where she lives in the coastal community of Sea Breeze and on Thursday morning she used her iPad to make a video of the scene.

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