Hurricane Florence begins to batter U.S. east coast

Just an absolute embarrassment

A man walks past a boarded-up business in Wilmington, N.C., ahead of the storm.

Florence's rain will reach 40 inches in some parts of the Carolinas, and gusty winds will send the ocean and rivers spilling into neighborhoods, forecasters said.

"This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina", Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday morning.

"Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience", he warned.

The NHC said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rain could trigger landslides in the west of his state.

The water starts at her feet, rising behind her to three feet and "coming up my shins towards my waist", then to six feet and finally to nine feet, dwarfing her as she warns of the storm surge.

At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Governor Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.

Prisoners were affected, too.

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Further south, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, more than 60 people were evacuated from a hotel after police received a 911 call just before 1am, the city's public safety department said in a statement.

Florence was seen as a major test for FEMA, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared a year ago for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths in the desperate months that followed. She adds: "You have wind, high water, rushing water, downed trees and downed power lines - not to mention it's dark out". Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers. The Neuse River rose rapidly, overcoming the streets of New Bern.

Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.

The storm's eye was about 145 miles southeast of Wilmington as of 11 a.m., the briefing said. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

The National Hurricane Center said a gauge north of Wilmington in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 6.3 feet (1.92 metres) of inundation.

People in the storm's path shared video on social media of the now-Category 1 hurricane's still-intense 90 miles per hour (150 km/h) winds as the eyewall moved through Wilmington, North Carolina. Categories only represent the speed of sustained winds, and these are still destructive.

The center said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days.

The storm remained a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour.

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The center downgraded Florence to a Category 1 hurricane, but warned that it still carried "very unsafe winds".

The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago.

Thanks to its Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), NASA has shown an incredible 3D view of Hurricane Florence as it approached the eastern part of the U.S.

"We'll operate without power; we have candles".

"The idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more. once you leave, you don't know how many days it will be before you can return", a Wilmington resident named Kate tells VOA.

Others were at home hoping for the best.

She said the water in some areas had topped mailboxes, and in low-lying places filled the first and second floors of homes.

"But we can't replace us so we made a decision to come here". "We chose to hunker down".

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