Florence lumbers inland, leaving five dead, communities flooded

Florence lumbers inland, leaving five dead, communities flooded

Tropical Storm Florence dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland on Saturday, triggering risky flooding, toppling trees, cutting power to almost a million homes and businesses while causing at least five deaths.

Authorities on Saturday warned residents displaced by a killer hurricane that its devastation was far from over, as Florence dumped "epic amounts of rainfall" across the eastern United States, bringing catastrophic flooding.

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.

In Wilmington, a city of about 120,000 people on North Carolina's Atlantic coastline along the Cape Fear River that is home to historic mansions and even a decommissioned World War II-era battleship, streets were strewn with downed tree limbs and carpeted with leaves and other debris.

In Lumberton, North Carolina, volunteers are working to try to prevent a repeat of what happened with 2016's Hurricane Matthew, which left the city underwater for days. He said the gust was the strongest recorded in Wilmington since 1958.

The storm dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland on Saturday. But its progress had slowed to a crawl of 5 miles per hour.

The storm has killed five so far, and officials expect the death toll to rise. Some other parts of SC could see rainfall totals of up to 15 inches, forecasters said.

"Remember most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars. Don't drive across standing or moving water", the governor said, urging people to heed evacuation orders.

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. It was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, last Friday. Now its maximum sustained winds are about 50mph (80km/h) and it's a tropical storm. More than 751,859 people in North Carolina without power as of 3 p.m. ET in North Carolina, North Carolina Emergency Management tweeted.

FEMA administrator under investigation for travel, use of government cars
USA government watchdogs have also chastised Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over his spending. FEMA's James Joseph said even with all of its assets, there are limits to what it can do.

The figure included a woman and her baby killed when a tree fell on their house. The father was hospitalized with injuries. Officials also said one person was electrocuted in Lenoir County while plugging in a generator in the rain, and a man died after being blown to the ground while checking on his hunting dogs.

Parts of southern North Carolina and northeastern SC could see another foot or more of rain over the weekend, according to National Weather Service.

New Bern spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said 455 people in all were rescued in the town of 30,000 residents without any serious injuries or deaths.

"Many people who think the storm has missed them have yet to see its threat", he said, adding: "Don't go back until this storm passes and you get the official all clear".

Some local residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit early on Friday.

"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.

If Florence doesn't wipe out oceanfront homes on stilts along the Carolinas coast, rising sea levels will. Florence lashed low-lying barrier islands that experience some of the fastest rates of sea level rise observed anywhere in the world, almost an inch (2.5 centimeters) a year.

The figure for SC was 170,000.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door to door to pull more than 60 people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

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