Hurricane Florence: Woman, baby die after tree falls on house

Paul Anthony Menchaca.         Source Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

A woman in Pender County also died when a fallen tree prevented emergency crews from reaching her while she suffered a heart attack, a county spokeswoman said. Governor Roy Cooper's office said he died while plugging in a generator.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday afternoon, but warned that life-threatening storm surges - in which water is pushed by a storm over land that would normally be dry - and catastrophic freshwater flooding were still expected.

A day after Florence's landfall in North Carolina, water is shaping up to be the storm's deadliest impact - and the rains will only keep coming as flood damage mounts. Authorities say at least 20,000 people have evacuated their homes and are sought refuge in shelters throughout North Carolina.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225 km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

By mid-afternoon the winds had dropped to 75 miles per hour (120 kph) and the center was moving west at 6 miles per hour (10 kph), the NHC said, and parts of North and SC would get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).

Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at weather.us, said the storm will dump approximately 10 trillion gallons of water on North Carolina, about a quarter of the annual total.

By Saturday morning the winds weakened to 50mph but the storm's slow speed means that communities in North Carolina are receiving a prolonged battering by torrential rain.

In a hurricane, as Live Science has reported, the most significant threat is flooding, not the high winds.

In North Carolina, the city of New Bern was particularly hard hit.

"I couldn't even imagine", he said.

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Video reports from several towns in the Carolinas showed emergency personnel wading through rippling thigh-high floodwaters in residential neighborhoods.

The White House said on Friday President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help.

More than 810,000 people lacked power in North Carolina, and another 170,000 outages were reported in SC, according to emergency-management agencies. Paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.

"It's insane", he said in a phone interview.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

Tropical Storm Florence trudged inland on Saturday, flooding rivers and towns, toppling trees and cutting power to almost a million homes and businesses as it dumped huge amounts of rain on North and SC, causing five deaths. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.

Florence had been a Category-3 hurricane on Thursday but dropped to Category-1 before coming ashore.

Rainfall has been heavy and consistent in the areas of the storm, with Florence expected to cascade up to 40 inches of rain across southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeastern SC. That should spell some relief for the inundated areas of Onslow county, but unfortunately puts the city of Wilmington, southeast coastal communities of North Carolina and northeast areas of SC in the line of fire instead. Some of those who stayed went to shelters while others stuck it out in their homes.

Blowing ashore with howling 155 km/h winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster.

"It looks like a battlefield out here", he said.

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