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Storm Florence: The impact in numbers

16 September 2018

As Hurricane Storm Florence lashed through the Carolinas with howling winds and heavy rain, one reporter was captured attempting to keep it together as winds appeared to lash at him, but was mocked when two people were seen walking behind him with little difficulty. The father was transported to a nearby hospital to receive treatment for injuries he sustained.

In Pender County, a woman died of a heart attack. So far, at least three people have died because of the storm, including a mother and infant who were in a Mercer Avenue house when it was struck by a felled tree. A 78-year-old man connecting extension cords in the rain was electrocuted, according to Roger Dail, the Lenoir County director of emergency services.

"North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned in a briefing Saturday morning that more people in the state are in danger now than when Florence made landfall there on Friday".

The National Weather Service says the worst flooding will likely start Saturday night or Sunday morning and will continue for several days.

Florence was packing 120mph winds (193km/h) on Thursday but weakened from a Category 3 hurricane to Category 1 before it hit the coastline on Friday.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph (225 kph) earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles (kilometres) east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line. It said it was located about 50 miles (65 km) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and forecasters predicted a slow westward march.

As Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical storm, continued to chart a path of destruction across North and SC on Saturday, school gymnasiums morphed into makeshift shelters for thousands of people displaced from their homes in nearby flood-prone areas.

Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown area was under water by Friday afternoon.

Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in.

"If you are refusing to leave during this mandatory evacuation, you need to do things like notify your legal next of kin because the loss of life is very, very possible", Mayor Mitch Colvin said at a news conference. Eudy and his family stayed home in New Bern in part to protect their house. And oft-critical Republicans like retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen slammed Trump's claim as "shameless and disgusting". Hurricane Matthew sent more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water into their home in 2016, and the couple feared Florence would run them out again. The storm was once a powerful Category 4 storm but became a slow-moving Category 1 storm when it made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina, on Friday.

"What we want to try to do is to minimize the time that people spend in their shelters that they're in right now", Sprayberry said. Numerous evacuees took their pets.

The White House said yesterday President Donald Trump had approved making federal funding available in some counties.

In its initial onslaught along the coast, Florence buckled buildings, deluged entire communities and knocked out power to more than 870,000 homes and businesses.

Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.

Charlotte and Asheville in North Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia, could also be in for heavy rains as Florence plods inland. As the storm sat along the edge of the Atlantic, some stretches along the coastal Carolinas received close to 20 inches of rain.

"We continue to assess conditions in the central and southeast portion of the state to identify opportunities to safely increase operations in those areas as well", Capt. Bion Stewart, leader of the Coast Guard's response to Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, said in a statement. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.