Florence turns deadly, unleashing 'catastrophic' floods on Carolinas

Florence turns deadly, unleashing 'catastrophic' floods on Carolinas

Even though Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, it already has proven deadly with its almost nonstop rain, surging seawater and howling winds.

The Wilmington Police Department said that the mother and her infant were killed on September 14, when the tree fell on their house; the infant's father was rushed to the hospital with injuries. The father was hospitalized with injuries.

A woman in Hampstead, in Pender County, died of an apparent heart attack after emergency crews could not clear debris to get to her.

Two people in Lenoir County were killed: a 78-year-old Kinston man who was electrocuted when connecting extension cords in the rain and a 77-year-old man who was blown down by the wind when he went to check on his hunting dogs.

After landfall, Florence slowed to a pace that meant it would plague the area with days of flooding.

Though Florence's shrieking winds diminished from hurricane force as it came ashore, forecasters said the sheer size of the 350-mile-wide storm and its painfully slow progress across North and SC in the coming days could leave much of the region under water. Over 1 million people are under evacuation warnings, with 10 million more under storm watches and warnings, CBS News reports.

Florence peaked at a terrifying Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm ocean water before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending", Cooper said.

Rain is forecast to continue through the weekend, bringing risky flooding conditions to many areas of North Carolina.

More than 23 inches have fallen in some towns.

On the mainland in New Bern, authorities said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater.

"And we're not done yet", Graham said, adding that some hard-hit areas could get an additional 15 to 20 inches because the storm was moving so slowly.

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"That's a decision I had to make", he said. "These are folks who are maybe in one-story buildings and they are seeing the floodwaters rise".

Florence could dump a staggering 18 trillion gallons of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland, meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com calculated.

Jacob Fernandez (left) and Josh Fernandez play around on the tree that fell near their home as Hurricane Florence passed through the area on Friday in Bolivia, N.C.

In Hampstead, emergency responders going to a call for cardiac arrest found their path blocked by downed trees.

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

But the water never quite made it to his home.

"Afterwards, I'm going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I'm walking the neighborhood and making sure my neighbors are fine, because nobody can get in here".

Although it has been downgraded to a tropical storm, slow-moving Florence is already blasting North and SC with torrential rain and severe floods.

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.

At 2 p.m., Florence was centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The storm is expected to bring historic and "catastrophic" rain and flooding, the National Hurricane Center said in an 8 a.m. briefing. At least seven people have died, a toll authorities fear will rise as the storm crawls westward across SC.

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