Florence crashes into Carolinas

Torrential rain, 144kmph winds and powerful storm surge 'overwhelm' two US states

By Reuters
  • Published 15.09.18
A bear statue stands amid flood waters from the Neuse river in New Bern, North Carolina, on Friday. (AFP)

Wilmington, North Carolina: Hurricane Florence crashed into the Carolinas on Friday with 144kmph winds, torrential rain and a powerful storm surge before slowing to a pace that meant it would plague the area with days of flooding.

The hurricane's storm surge - the wall of water it pushed in from the Atlantic - had "overwhelmed" New Bern, a town of about 30,000 people next to the Neuse river, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said.

"The sun rose this morning on an extremely dangerous situation and it's going to get worse," he said at a news conference in Raleigh.

"To those in the storm's path, if you can hear me, please stay sheltered in place." Cooper said Florence would "continue its violent grind across the state for days".

No storm-related deaths or serious injuries were reported in the hours immediately after Florence hit but authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.

Volunteers help rescue children from their flooded home in James City, North Carolina, on Friday. (AFP)

The centre of the hurricane's eye came ashore at about 1115GMT near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 150 kmph, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

By 1500GMT the winds had dropped to 80mph and the centre was about 3.1km inland, 30km southwest of Wilmington, and moving west at a sluggish 5kmph.

Cooper said Florence was set to cover almost all of the state in several feet of water. As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier island chain, already had received 76cm of rain, the US Geological Service said.

National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear predicted Florence would drop up to eight months' worth of rain in two or three days.

Authorities in New Bern said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. The town's public information officer, Colleen Roberts, told CNN 150 more people were awaiting rescue.

Helping with rescues there were members of the so-called Cajun Navy, a group of Louisiana-based volunteers who became famous during last year's Hurricane Harvey, locals said on Twitter.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," New Bern city officials said on Twitter. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU."

Waves crash against the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Friday. (AFP)

Video reports from several towns in the Carolinas showed emergency personnel wading through thigh-high water in residential neighbourhoods.

Florence also blew down trees, including one that went through the roof of Kevin DiLoreto's home in Wilmington. He said all roads leading to his neighbourhood were blocked by fallen trees.

"It's insane," he said. "Everybody laughs at the fact that this storm got downgraded ... but I've never seen tree devastation this bad. "Afterwards, I'm going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I'm walking the neighbourhood and making sure my neighbours are fine."