Deadly Florence trudges inland in Carolinas with 'epic' rain, flooding

Hurricane Florence off the eastern coast of the United States

Tropical Storm Florence's relentless rain has caused devastating flooding in the Carolinas and promises even more Saturday, a day after it landed as a hurricane and left at least seven people dead - including a baby.

The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

Firefighters and rescue crews pray in front of a home after removing a resident trapped inside during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018.

"Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm", Cooper said in a statement. Duke Energy, the area's biggest utility company, said that figure could rise to three million and restoring power could take weeks.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence's winds have slowed to tropical storm strength, and said the storm is moving slowly inland with sustained winds of 110 kilometers per hour and higher gusts.

A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords, while another man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said. "Florence's 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay", its article says.

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.

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They added that the onslaught would last for hours because Florence was barely creeping along at 9km an hour and still drawing energy from the ocean.

It was expected to begin pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend.

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 near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225 km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

In New Bern, North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000 which is located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers.

"The cost to SC, if that happens, if the storm continues the way it is going, could be in the billions", Dahler said.

Rescue crews in Onslow County helped evacuate 70 people from a Jacksonville hotel early Friday after the roof collapsed and rain rushed in.

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"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.

Storm Florence may have weakened but the full extent of the damage it has wreaked may not become clear for days. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the authorities in New Bern said on Twitter.

Sidney Este, whose 71-year-old mother was still inside his house, said: "I'm mostly concerned about the house getting hotter and hotter".

In Wilmington, numerous trees that contributed to its historic beauty are now gone.

New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw told The Durham Herald-Sun around 5am that about 200 people had been rescued so far.

Florence will move slowly Saturday, and pick up a bit of forward speed Sunday.

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