North Carolina's governor Roy Cooper described the storm as "an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave". The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. But these winds combined with a giant storm surge and deluge of rain are brewing havoc along the coast.
Donald Trump was to visit hurricane-hit zones "early to the middle of next week", the White House said, "once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts".
Hurricane Florence remains a significant storm surge and flash flood event, according to the latest public advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Scientists say they are wetter, possess more energy and intensify faster. "We're deeply concerned for whole communities which could be wiped away".
In New Bern, North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000, located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers.
The city warns that people "may need to move up to the second story" but tells them to stay put as "we are coming to get you".
Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon. The storm has weakened to a Category 1, with wind speeds of 90 miles per hour. More than 22,600 people were housed in 150 shelters statewide, including schools, churches and Wake Forest University's basketball arena. "This will cause extremely unsafe flooding", the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned.
A hilarious video which has gone viral on Twitter with over 10 million views shows a weatherman seemingly struggling to stand in high winds during Hurricane Florence - even as two men walk calmly behind him, apparently unaffected.
Hundreds more had to be rescued elsewhere from rising waters. By that time, emergency crews had already been deployed to parts of the state where people were trapped by floodwaters. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines. Cooper cited a National Weather Service forecast that said almost the entire state could be covered in several feet of water.
North Carolina emergency management officials said more than 600,000 customers in North Carolina were without power.
As of 3 a.m., Florence hadn't moved and was still centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.
A tornado watch was issued for eastern North Carolina. The large size of the tree made it hard, Wilmington Fire Department Chief Jon Mason said during a Friday afternoon press conference. "I wonder how it would have been with a Category 4 or 5".
"We're helping out a lot of people today", says Craven County Emergency Services spokesperson Amber Parker.
The Ahold Delhaize USA chain said on its website that it has temporarily shut 126 stores in North Carolina, 53 in SC and four in Virginia.
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