HURRICANE FLORENCE: Storm kills 3, downs trees and power lines across region

Swansboro North Carolina

Hurricane Florence is battering North Carolina with wild winds and a powerful storm surge

Hurricane Florence made landfall on North Carolina's Atlantic coast early Friday, triggering a life-threatening storm surge of floodwater kilometers inland and tearing apart buildings with strong winds and heavy downpours.

About 70 people in Jacksonville, North Carolina, had to be moved to safety from a hotel whose structural integrity was threatened by the hurricane.

Another woman who was rescued by another group in New Bern told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360˚" that she and her family thought they would be safe in their brick home and heard the storm had been downgraded from a Category 4.

There is around 156,068 people that have lost power and police have suspended their services in Morehead City and other coastal cities, warning any residents who remain in the evacuation zone that they will be without emergency services until the storm passes. "We've got some roof issues, parts of roof are coming off and we've got some fences coming down".

Rainfall will be one of the most destructive elements of hurricane Florence, with heavy rain triggering risky flash floods and potential landslides.

It comes amid otherwise serious warnings for residents in North and SC as Hurricane Florence, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday, continues to put properties and lives at risk.

The town of Oriental, North Carolina, got more than 18 inches of rain in just a few hours, while Surf City had 14 inches.

In Kinston, more than an hour's drive inland from the coast, Lenoir County spokesman Bryan Hanks said a man was electrocuted as he attempted to connect extension cords outside in the rain.

The NHC said Florence went ashore near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at 7:15 a.m. EDT with estimated maximum winds of 90 miles per hour.

Still, she said, "I think we're going to stay put", noting her neighborhood's past success in avoiding power outages and flooding. Some parts of New Bern could be flooded with a possible 9-foot storm surge as the Category 2 hurricane approaches the United States. "The water started rising and we evacuated nearly an entire TV station in about 15 minutes".

At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.

But forecasters say Florence's biggest threat, as with all hurricanes, lies in its water: a storm surge of up to 11 feet and rainfall that will trigger catastrophic flooding.

The 63-year-old former firefighter says he was able to sleep through the torrential rain and thrashing winds when then-Hurricane Florence made landfall early Friday morning, only waking up to texts he received at 7 a.m. from friends checking up on him.

The hurricane has caused more than 555,000 power outages in North Carolina, with almost 65,000 reported in SC, according to website poweroutage.us. "The ocean is going to start rising". According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm will travel through the SC upstate, be downgraded to a tropical depression then turn north toward Ohio.

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds as of Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington.

Some of the worst flooding was in New Bern, North Carolina, a town of about 30,000 people at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers. "I couldn't even imagine", he said.

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