4 dead as Hurricane Florence drenches the Carolinas
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Blowing ashore with howling 90 miles per hour, 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.
At least four people were killed.
Forecasters warned that drenching rains of anywhere from 1 to 3½ feet as the storm crawls westward across North and South Carolina could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.
As 400-mile-wide Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach scores of people besieged by rising waters along a river.
More than 60 others had to be rescued as a cinderblock motel collapsed.
Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and knocked out power to more than 700,000 homes and businesses, and the assault wasn’t anywhere near an end.
“It’s an uninvited brute who doesn’t want to leave,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.
The hurricane was “wreaking havoc” and could wipe out entire communities as it makes its “violent grind across our state for days,” the governor said.
He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges — the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane — as high as 10 feet.
A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police.
The deaths also included that of a person killed while plugging in a generator, the governor’s office said.
By early afternoon, Florence’s winds had weakened to 75 miles per hour, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm’s terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 miles per hour earlier in the week.
But the hurricane had slowed to a crawl, drenching coastal communities for hours on end.
The town of Oriental, North Carolina, had gotten more than 18 inches of rain just a few hours into the deluge, while Surf City had 14 inches and it was still coming down.