Florence rolls ashore in Carolinas, tears buildings apart

Hurricane Florence Drowned a Riverfront 30 Miles from the North Carolina Coast

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster asked people to remain patient during a last-minute news conference before Hurricane Florence begins to impact the state.

The hurricane has moved at only 3-6 miles per hour on Friday, increasing the effect of its torrential rains. The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour, the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958, the weather service said.

As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on the state's Outer Banks barrier islands, already had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the U.S. Geological Service said. "I made sure ahead of time that we had adequate space for anybody that wanted to try that".

When Florence hit as a Category 1 hurricane early Friday, the community's rivers swelled, tides crested and the rain wouldn't stop.

The NHC said hurricane-force winds extended outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 195 miles out.

Ken Graham, the NHC's director, warned the slow pace of the storm exacerbated its danger even to areas outside its immediate path.

- City officials in one North Carolina community sent out an ominous tweet sometime around 2 a.m. Friday.

Florence will dump 40 inches (101.6 cm) of rain in some parts of the Carolina coast, forecasters said.

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Along the coast, floodwaters have been hitting inland towns near rivers that normally discharge into the ocean.

"The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation and it's getting worse", Cooper said, calling Florence a "thousand-year rain event".

Three people were killed in flash flooding and swift water on roadways in Duplin County, NC, the Duplin County Sheriff's Office confirmed.

Travel is extremely hazardous because of storm surge, Trogdon said, and will only get worse. "This is a 500- or 1,000-year event".

Florence "is twice the size of Hurricane Hugo", which tore through the Carolinas in 1989, New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw told "GMA".

The No. 1 mission right now, Cooper said, is to save lives.

In New Bern, where a curfew was in place, city authorities said hundreds of people had been rescued from homes inundated with water.

"The worst of the storm is not yet here, but these are the early warnings of the days to come", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told reporters just before the hurricane made landfall.

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Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m. Friday with sustained winds of 68 miles per hour and gusts as high as 90-plus miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A third person died nearby in coastal Pender County, North Carolina, where an official called it a medical fatality but did not elaborate.

As she sat in the hotel lobby eating a cold breakfast of bananas, cereal bars, and pastries, she recalled that the decision to heed the mandatory evacuation order for her area wasn't hard. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.

There's still a threat from rising tides, Risty-Davis says.

Some people are evacuating their houses. Power companies expect millions more to lose power, and say restoration could take weeks. Storm surge could be up to 13 feet, pushing seawater as much as 2 miles inland. The agency adds that people trapped by flooding should "never enter attics or crawl spaces". The skies were dry Friday morning with breezy winds and occasional strong gusts blowing the Spanish moss hanging from live oak branches.

More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught on the coast would last for hours and hours because Florence had come nearly to a dead halt at just 3 mph (6 kph) as of midday. It will likely weaken more on Friday, with "rapid weakening forecast over the weekend", the hurricane center said. As forecasters warned the hurricane could lead to potentially catastrophic flooding.

Hurricane Irma destroyed Kathy Griffin's house in Florida past year, and it could be days before she finds out whether Florence smashed her fifth-story condominium in Wrightsville Beach, where authorities said utilities could be out for days or weeks.

It diminished from hurricane force as it came ashore, but forecasters said the 350-mile-wide storm's slow progress across North and SC could leave much of the region under water in the coming days.

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