Florence weakens to depression, flood risk rises

Blanche Robertson
September 16, 2018

Though Florence's shrieking winds diminished from hurricane force as it came ashore, forecasters said the sheer size of the 350-mile-wide storm and its painfully slow progress across North and SC in the coming days could leave much of the region under water.

Florence's intensity has diminished since it roared ashore along the US mid-Atlantic coast on Friday as a hurricane.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered ahead of Florence's landfall in parts of North and SC, though many people chose to remain in their homes for reasons ranging from financial concerns and the need to care for pets that they may not have been able to take to some evacuation shelters, some who stayed in their residences told ABC News ahead of the storm.

Some towns have already had over 2ft (60cm) of rain, and forecasters warn that totals could hit 3.5ft (1m).

"Dangerous storm surge could also affect portions of the northeast coast of SC coast today".

With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, stranded people were being rescued by boat and by helicopter, while tens of thousands of others hunkered down in shelters.

Electricity remained out for much of the city, with power lines lying across many roads like wet strands of spaghetti.

Landslides are also possible in the higher terrain of the southern and central Appalachias across western North Carolina into southwestern Virginia as Florence moves inland.

60 primary roads have been closes, with more closures expected.

"Remember most storm deaths occur from drowning in fresh water, often in cars".

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph (225 kph) earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles (kilometres) east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

Downgraded to a Tropical Storm, its core is now drifting westward over SC, threatening more flash floods and major river flooding.

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The Cape Fear River near Fayetteville is projected to rise nearly 45 feet (14 metres) to 62 feet (19 metres) by Tuesday.

By Saturday morning the winds weakened to 50mph but the storm's slow speed means that communities in North Carolina are receiving a prolonged battering by torrential rain.

Seven emergency shelters are open in the county. SC recorded its first death from the storm, with officials saying a 61-year-old woman was killed when her auto hit a tree that fell across a highway.

Preliminary reports showed that Florence dumped more than 30 inches of rain in Swansboro, North Carolina, breaking the state's record of most rainfall from a single storm.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence has finally made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. But with half of the storm still out over the Atlantic, Florence continued to collect warm ocean water and dump it onshore.

In the city of New Bern near the North Carolina coast, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000, which is at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers. Some area residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit.

United States correspondent Cordelia Lynch, who is in New Bern, said: "This community in the weeks and months to come is up against a great deal of flooding".

More than 800,000 customers in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state.

SC authorities said law enforcement officers were guarding against looting in evacuated areas.

The city of about 29,000, which was founded in the early 1700s, is near the North Carolina coast and is bordered on the east and south, respectively, by two rivers. She tried to row out of her neighborhood Thursday night with a boat that was in her yard after her home began to flood, but she had to retreat because of the poor conditions. The family had 3 feet of water in their home, so they called for help, and it took 12 hours for rescuers to get to them.

The White House said President Donald Trump approved making federal funding available in some affected counties. Although more than $740 million in federal, state and local funds have been spent to address Matthew's damages, state officials are still working to distribute $236 million allocated by the federal government a year ago to help reimburse or pay for extensive home repairs.

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