Florence, a wet and unwanted visitor, besieges Carolinas

Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm and flooding from the heavy rain is forcing hundreds of people to call for emergency rescues in the area around New Bern, North Carolina, which sits at the confluence of the Nueces and Trent rivers.

The governor of North Carolina on Saturday, September 15 warned residents displaced by a killer storm against returning home because of the dangers posed by rising floodwaters.

Along coastal communities, people trapped in homes by relentless flood waters awaited rescue, and tens of thousands hunkered down in shelters after fleeing their homes as the storm approached.

The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.

The surges will be most harmful in North Carolina, with rain and flooding also making the dangerously high water levels even worse.

"The fact that there haven't been more deaths and damage is wonderful and a blessing", said Rebekah Roth, walking around Wilmington's Winoca Terrace neighborhood.

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) downgraded it to a tropical storm, but warned it would dump as much as 76cm to 102cm of rain on the south-eastern coast of North Carolina and parts of north-eastern SC.

As of 8 p.m., Florence was centered about 65 miles (100 kilometers) east-southeast of Columbia, the SC capital, crawling west at 2 mph (4 kph) - not even as fast as a person walking. It said it was located about 60 miles west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and forecasters predicted a slow westward march. That could affect the infrastructure, bridges, residences, farms and other buildings, Dahler said.

"Please be safe and be smart and use your common sense", Cooper added.

Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds on Thursday.

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Florence already has proven deadly with its almost nonstop rain, surging seawater and howling winds, and the threat is days from ending as remnants of the once major hurricane slowly creep inland across the Carolinas.

Schoolteacher Leslie Ochoa said she and her family loaded up 10 adults, 5 children, 14 goats, 10 dogs, two cats and one guinea pig and evacuated from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina last Tuesday.

At least 4 people killed, including mother and baby. The father was transported to a nearby hospital to receive treatment for injuries he sustained. He suggested speciously that George Washington University - whose researchers analyzed mortality data in Puerto Rico in order to determine how many people died during the hurricane and its aftermath - created the numbers "like magic" through an unprecedented and unproven method.

There are at least two other coal-fired Duke plants in North Carolina that are likely to affected by the storm. Officials in the town of 30,000, which dates to the early 18th century, said over 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon.

In New Bern, along the coast, homes were completely surrounded by water, and rescuers used inflatable boats to reach people Saturday. Some area residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit.

"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern to a hotel some 80 miles (130 km) away.

As much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain could fall on coastal areas in North and SC, the National Hurricane Center said.

"The cost to SC, if that happens, if the storm continues the way it is going, could be in the billions", Dahler said.

More than 22,600 people in North Carolina were housed in 150 shelters statewide, including schools, churches and Wake Forest University's basketball arena.

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