Hurricane Florence claims several lives

Alexander Gerst  European Space Agency

Hurricane Florence, the vast storm meteorologists and astronauts alike have been tracking, made landfall this morning (Sept. 14) near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

A woman and her baby were killed when a tree fell on their house and at least two other storm-related deaths were reported as Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas, dousing the eastern USA states with torrential rain and causing rivers to burst their banks. The father sustained injuries and was transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for medical care.

Two people died in Lenoir County.

"We knew this was going to be a big storm, but it is going to be of epic proportions", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference in Raleigh.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Florence was set to cover nearly all of the state in several feet of water.

Florence was seen as 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 storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths in the desperate aftermath. As the storm moves into hilly terrain, it's also expected to unleash catastrophic and potentially deadly flash flooding and possibly mud slides, the hurricane center warned.

The hurricane came ashore early Friday, pounding the state with torrential rain and high winds.

Hurricane Florence still a threat despite downgrade
Officials in the potential path of Florence urged people to evacuate their coastal homes and directed drivers away from the coast. Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave.

He warned residents to be prepared for mass power outages that could last for days or weeks, echoing the sentiments shared by Duke Energy on Wednesday. "I'm a little bit scared right now", she said, "but I have my iPad and I'm watching Netflix".

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", he said.

"Significant weakening is forecast over the weekend and into early next week while Florence moves farther inland", NHC said.

The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958, the weather service said.

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal resources for storm response.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

"There is still time, but not a lot of time", said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Department of Emergency Management.

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