Mother and Infant Among First Reported Fatalities as Hurricane Florence Makes Landfall

Mother and Infant Among First Reported Fatalities as Hurricane Florence Makes Landfall

The Category 1 storm has maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour and is moving slowly, at 6 miles per hour.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday, but warned that life-threatening storm surges - in which water is pushed by a storm over land that would normally be dry - catastrophic freshwater flooding were still expected.

Blowing ashore with howling 90 miles per hour winds, Hurricane Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", said Ballance, owner of a seafood restaurant that was flooded. FEMA officials wrote on Twitter people should not focus on the category of the storm - as of Thursday morning, Hurricane Florence was a Category 2 storm, indicating slower wind speeds - but rather should pay attention to the fact there will be extreme flooding in the Carolinas as a result.

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

Salisbury, N.C. -based Food Lion on Friday said it has begun now accepting financial donations for Hurricane Florence relief at its 1,000 stores.

Along the coast, floodwaters have been hitting inland towns near rivers that normally discharge into the ocean. As Cooper said, "There's nowhere for the water to go".

Roy Cooper, governor for North Carolina, said: "The sun rose this morning on an extremely risky situation and it's going to get worse".

Atlantic Beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks islands had already received 76 cm of rain, the US Geological Survey said.

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

Shaken after seeing waves crashing in the Neuse River just outside his house in the town of New Bern, hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.

Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in. The highest numbers are being reported in New Hanover County.

Power outages increased throughout Friday morning.

Cooper said the Neuse River had seen storm surge as high as 10 feet (three meters) and the amount of rainfall was a "1,000-year event". The agency adds that people trapped by flooding should "never enter attics or crawl spaces". Through noon Friday, 96 stores in the Carolinas and one in Virginia were closed because of the storm. Significant weakening was expected over the weekend. "If you've ever doubted the destructiveness of a hurricane, what's happening here will make you a believer". 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.

Forecasters believe the biggest danger right now is the water, not the wind.

After creeping inland, Florence is expected to head west before looping up toward Tennessee and Kentucky early next week. New Bern is about 32 miles north of Morehead City, North Carolina, and 101 miles southeast of Raleigh. Thousands of soldiers from their National Guard forces have been mobilized.

Nearly 20,000 people had taken refuge in 157 emergency shelters, Mr Cooper said.

By 2 p.m. Saturday, the storm won't even be halfway across SC, forecasters say.