Hurricane Florence begins to batter United States east coast

Olive Hawkins
September 14, 2018

Thousands of people have taken temporary shelter in converted schools and community centers, while those who have ignored orders have been warned that rescuers will not be able to reach them at the height of the storm.

"I don't care if this goes down to a Category 1", CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".

Hurricane Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday, bending trees and shooting frothy sea water over streets on the Outer Banks, as the hulking storm closed in with 90 miles per hour (135 kph) winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend.

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 120 miles per hour winds on Thursday but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore.

"Inland flooding kills a lot of people unfortunately and that's what we're about to see".

The area is expected to get about as much rain in three days as Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd dropped in two weeks in 1999.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

Big storm: Florence is about 645 kilometres wide, with hurricane-force winds stretching across a 255km span.

The storm officially made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 am (local time), the National Hurricane Center said.

"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.

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Coastal streets flowed with frothy ocean water, and more than 460,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the country's electrical grid.

There's no doubt that Hurricane Florence is going to have a devastating effect on the east coast of the US.

Hurricane-force winds extend up to 80 miles from the center of the storm, which is expected to make landfall around 8 a.m. ET on Friday.

Sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the electricity went out.

An officer inspecting the Triangle Motor Inn found a "basketball-sized hole" in a corner room and firefighters said the building had suffered life-threatening structural damage.

Immigration officers have been dispatched to help with response and recovery as Florence lashes North and SC with life-threatening winds, rain and floods.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City. "Nothing's hit the house yet, but it's still blowing".

Federal agencies from the Army Corps of Engineers to the Environmental Protection Agency said they had people near the storm's path to help after the hurricane hit.

WXII-TV reported that 150 people were waiting to be rescued from rising waters in the city New Bern.

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