'Relentless' storm Florence pummels the Carolinas

Credit PA

Hundreds of people were rescued in New Bern, N.C., on Friday as Tropical Storm Florence continued its assault on the Carolina coast after making landfall in the morning.

"Florence slowly weakening just inland over eastern SC but causing catastrophic flooding over North and SC", the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said early Saturday morning, after downgrading it from a hurricane to a tropical storm the previous day.

Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm with diminished winds, but it has stalled over the Wilmington region as predicted and will continue drenching the area with historic and catastrophic rain, the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m. briefing.

The deaths include two people killed in Lenoir County, and a mother and infant killed in Wilmington, N.C., when a tree fell on a home, according to authorities. The father was transported to the hospital with injuries.

At least four people have died, and authorities fear the toll will go higher.

USA media later said a man in Lenoir County died after heavy winds knocked him down as he tried to check on his dogs.

Resident Jay Manning said he and his wife watched with alarm as water filled the street. "My wife's in a panic right now".

At 11 a.m. Saturday, Florence was centered about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving west at 2 mph (4 kph), not even as fast as a person can walk.

The NWS says southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeast SC are expected to report an additional 10 to 15 inches of rainfall - with storm totals between 30 and 40 inches along the coastal areas south of Cape Hatteras.

"This rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the advisory said.

More news: 'Threat becomes reality': Hurricane Florence begins days of rain, wind

Atlantic Beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks islands had already received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A day after Florence's landfall in North Carolina, water is shaping up to be the storm's deadliest impact - and the rains will only keep coming as flood damage mounts.

North Carolina utilities have estimated that as many as 2.5 million state residents could be left without power, the state's Department of Public Safety said. About 150 more had to wait to be rescued as conditions worsened.

"This storm is relentless and excruciating", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told CNN late on Friday.

Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in. "These are folks who are maybe in one-story buildings and they're seeing the floodwaters rise".

In New Bern, Sarah Risty-Davis is one of the residents who opted not to follow a mandatory evacuation order that was issued three days ago. They ventured out in life jackets into waste-deep water to tie the boat and another floating by to a tree. Eudy and his family stayed home in New Bern in part to protect their house. "This is a 500- or 1,000-year event".

The White House said on Friday President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help. Trump planned a visit to the region next week.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: "NO WAY" Trump pushes back on ex-lawyer putting out book, cites "attorney-client privilege" Wealthiest Republican supporter in OH quits party MORE has approved a disaster declaration for North Carolina as the state deals with Tropical Storm Florence, the White House announced Saturday.

For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

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