WILMINGTON: Florence barreled into the Carolina coast and moved inland on Friday, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc. Tens of thousands were without power.
By Friday night the center of the storm had moved to eastern SC, about 15 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. Heavy rainfall began after dark.
Parts of North and SC were forecast to get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).
The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes. As of 5 a.m., its maximum wind speeds remain at 110 miles per hour as it started to ingest drier air, says FOX 13's meteorologist Tyler Eliasen, however, it also means Florence's wind field has grown larger.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles.
He picked up 10 people on one run and took them to a shelter.
One resident, 67-year-old Linda Smith, told the MailOnline: "We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now".
"Cash donations go further and make a greater impact and easier to get to the harder hit areas", said Charvalla West, community resource center manager for the United Way of Williamsburg.
Florence could become 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 death toll was put at almost 3,000.
The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help. As the storm sat along the edge of the Atlantic, some stretches along the coastal Carolinas received close to 20 inches of rain. Winds knocked down trees all over.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
"It looks heavy outside", she said. "Because it's Mother Nature".
Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 18 trillion gallons of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.
Officials urged residents there to take shelter at the highest points of their homes, including rooftops.
"We would recommend that people hold on to nonperishable items to be prepared for the next emergency, which could happen at any time of year", said James City County spokeswoman Renee Dallman.
"About 11:30, 12 (midnight), the water came into the house". Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.
There are flood warnings everywhere. Meanwhile, Florence crept across the border into SC overnight, with tropical storm force winds still extending 175 miles from the center.
The National Hurricane Center described Florences path as a wobble around southeastern North Carolina.
"This storm will be a marathon vs. a sprint", the National Weather Service said on Twitter.
According to a study in June, hurricanes and typhoons, on average, appear to be slowing down in part because of human-caused climate change.
Life-threatening storm surge is being reported along the coast of the Carolinas. City spokeswoman Colleen Roberts tells WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been rescued. "I couldn't even imagine", he said. "I've got four cats inside the house".
"Seeing them get out of the auto and seeing their emotions was heartbreaking", he said.
Authorities pushed back against any suggestion the storm's threat was exaggerated. Residents mostly heeded police commands to stay home and off the streets. "We have two boats and all our worldly possessions", said Susan Patchkofsky, who refused her familys pleas to evacuate and stayed at Emerald Isle with her husband.