'Catastrophic' Hurricane Florence buffets United States east coast

Olive Hawkins
September 14, 2018

The outer bands Florence had reached Wilmington, North Carolina, on Thursday night with hurricane-force winds and a life-threatening storm surge, officials said.

As North Carolina residents began to feel the first modest effects of a weakened Hurricane Florence on Thursday, forecasters warned the powerful storm will bring seawater surging onto land and torrential downpours.

US Southeast power companies said more than 188,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina and SC were without power early Friday as Hurricane Florence caused a deluge ahead of its landfall later in the day.

Forecasters continue to warn of storm surges, excessive rainfall and catastrophic flash flooding.

More than a million people along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate.

Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "The county is larger than Rhode Island; it is not coastal or subject to any potential storm surge where the jail is at".

Wilmington resident Julie Terrell said she was concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.

"I said, 'Why get on the road like this? A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight". The power companies expect millions of people to be without power for days. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.

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As Florence churned slowly towards the coasts of North and SC as a Category 2 hurricane, federal and state officials issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the "once in a lifetime" weather system.

Florence's top winds were clocked on Thursday at 100 miles per hour (170 km per hour) as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, down from a peak of 140 mph (224 kph) earlier this week when it was classified a Category 4 storm.

Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm.

Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that was later downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a Wilmington hotel several miles inland.

Two women who were riding out the storm dance to the music outside the Barbary Coast bar in downtown Wilmington, N.C., as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast, September 13, 2018. "If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing".

Authorities pushed back against any suggestion the storm's threat was exaggerated.

The city of Jacksonville's statement says people have been moved to the city's public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter.

The police chief of Wrightsville Beach suggested that those who made a decision to stay give him their next-of-kin contact information.

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