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Florence now a tropical storm, leaves several dead, 'catastrophic' flood warnings in effect

High winds and water surround a house as Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro, NC, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland) High winds and water surround a house as Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro, NC, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
Hurricane Florence continues to dump huge amounts of rain, flooding streets, streams and rivers around North Carolina. (Source: WNCN/CNN) Hurricane Florence continues to dump huge amounts of rain, flooding streets, streams and rivers around North Carolina. (Source: WNCN/CNN)

(RNN) - Florence is now a tropical storm sitting over the Carolina coasts and moving slowly inland and south, causing life-threatening storm surges and potentially "catastrophic freshwater flooding" according to the National Weather Service.

The storm has claimed at least five lives, two of them in Wilmington, NC. A mother and infant were killed when a tree fell on their house, WECT reported. A father in the same home was transported to the hospital.

A third person, a woman, died in Hampstead, NC, in Pender County.

Two more people were killed in Lenoir County. Greenville station WITN said a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while he was trying to connect two extension cords in the rain. Another 78-year-old man was found dead at his home. It's believed he died after he was blown down while going outside to check on his dogs.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper confirmed the death of the man who was electrocuted outside, CNN reported.

One person died at the West Brunswick High School shelter Thursday morning, according to a spokesperson for Brunswick County. An investigation is underway, but officials said it appears there’s no reason for others at the shelter to worry.

A city spokeswoman for New Bern, NC, said more than 200 people were rescued from floodwaters Thursday night, and confirmed that 150 more were waiting to be rescued by Friday morning. The number of people still not rescued fell to about 40 by Friday afternoon, according to New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw.

The 11 p.m. ET National Hurricane Center update warned of "catastrophic freshwater flooding" in parts of North and South Carolina, and of continuing life-threatening storm surges and strong winds overnight as Florence moves slowly west-southwestward over extreme eastern South Carolina.

The eye of Florence directly struck Wrightsville Beach, NC, early Friday. The hurricane officially hit the East Coast around 7:40 a.m. ET as a Category 1 storm.

Around 11 p.m. Friday, Florence was about 15 miles west-northwest of Myrtle Beach, SC, moving west-southwest at 5 mph, packing maximum-sustained winds of 65 mph.

The storm is forecast to creep along the coast, dumping lots of water and lashing the area with winds.

The National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service is predicting "Major Flooding," its most severe classification, from south of the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina, to as as far south as the Waccamaw River near Myrtle Beach, SC.

Hundreds of thousands were without power in the Carolinas late Friday.

Over 770,000 were without power in North Carolina Friday night. More than 20,000 people in North Carolina spent the night in emergency shelters Friday night. A nuclear power plant in Brunswick, NC, has shut operations.

Many thousand more power customers were without electricity in northeastern South Carolina Friday night.

Florence is expected to slowly move west-southwest through early Saturday. The storm is then expected to turn westward and then northward through the Carolinas and to the Ohio Valley by Monday, the NHC said.

A surge is likely along portions of the South Carolina coast. Hurricane-force winds and inland flooding also is a concern.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged people to take the storm seriously.

“There is going to be a lot of rain. We are on the bad side of this storm. Our meteorologists are saying that the rainfall amounts will be devastating in certain areas,” he said Thursday.

Southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern South Carolina could see 20 to 30 inches of rainfall; some isolated areas could see 40 inches. The rainfall will cause catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding, the NHC said.

The remainder of South Carolina and North Carolina into southwest Virginia could see 5 to 10 inches, with some isolated areas seeing 15 inches. The rainfall will produce life-threatening flash flooding.

About 800 flights in the region were canceled ahead of the storm, CNN reported.

More than 10 million people live in areas under warnings or watches for hurricane- or tropical storm- force winds, CNN reported. At least 1 million people were ordered to evacuate along the coast.

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland declared states of emergency. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the federal level Tuesday for the Carolinas and Virginia.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 175 miles from the center of the storm.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to Cape Hatteras, NC, and the Pamlico Sound.

In addition, the threat of storm surges looms for areas in the path of the storm, meaning life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland is possible.

A storm surge warning is in effect for Myrtle Beach, SC to Ocracoke Inlet, NC, and the Pamlico Sound, including the Pamlico and Neuse rivers.

The Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay rivers may experience storm surges from 4 to 7 feet.

Other areas facing a surge include:

  • Ocracoke Inlet, NC, to Cape Lookout, NC, 2 to 4 feet
  • Cape Lookout, NC, to Cape Fear, NC, 3 to 5 feet
  • Cape Fear, NC, to Myrtle Beach, SC, 2 to 4 feet

“Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread inland across the remainder of the warning area through Saturday,” the NHC said.

Tropical Storm Isaac became Tropical Depression Isaac Friday morning. It's moving westward across the eastern Caribbean, where it's expected to bring up to 5 inches of rain across Puerto Rico.

Helene was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Thursday. It's moving north-northeast at 18 mph.

Yet another tropical storm formed in the Atlantic Thursday night. The National Weather Center upgraded Subtropical Storm Joyce to Tropical Storm Joyce in its 11 p.m. Thursday update.

Joyce, which is about 1,040 miles west-southwest of the Azores, is moving east at 9 mph. It's forecast to turn northeastward and accelerate in that direction over the weekend.

Another weather disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico moved inland Friday, making landfall in south Texas, bringing heavy rainfall and gusty winds to the region. Further development of that system is no longer anticipated, the NHC said.

Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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