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15 September 2018, 08:16 | Regina Holmes
Hurricane Florence hits US east coast amid warnings 'whole communities could be wiped away'
WILMINGTON: Florence barreled into the Carolina coast and moved inland on Friday, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.
The center of the hurricane´s eye came ashore at about 7:15 a. m. EDT (1115 GMT) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities. Duke Energy expects between 1 million to 3 million homes and businesses to lose power.
The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.
"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.
Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared a year ago for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000.
"What happens is that we rescue some people and then we find out there are still more who need it", he said.
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 city of Jacksonville's statement says people have been moved to the city's public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter.
In its latest update, the NHC predicted 20 to 25 inches of rain across much of the impacted region, with localized totals exceeding 30 or 40 inches.
People survey the damage on Front Street in downtown New Bern, North Carolina. The center of the storm is expected to maintain a westward track across southeastern North Carolina Friday and across eastern South Carolina Friday and Saturday. Harris Teeter, a Kroger Co. subsidiary, announced closings for 24 stores in North Carolina and 18 stores in SC.
Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 1 to 3 1/2 feet (30 centimetres to 1 metre) as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm crawls westward across North and SC could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.
Sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the electricity went out.
"We are still trying to rescue about 150 residents that did not evacuate, and we are now going in with water rescues to get these folks to a shelter", Outlaw said.
Regarding the possibility of a storm surge, Jones said, "Everyone has to be on the lookout for that, however, the way our house sits, it's elevated".
Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour (225 kph), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.
"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house.
More than a million people along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate.
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