(RNN) - Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm with 70 mph winds, and continues to move slowly inland through North Carolina, causing life-threatening storm surges.
The storm has claimed at least six 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. The 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.
A sixth person died in Lenoir County plugging in a generator, according to the office of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.
The mayor of New Bern, NC, also said on CNN that hundreds of people had been rescued in his city.
The eye of Florence directly struck Wrightsville Beach, NC, on Friday. The Category 1 storm officially hit the East Coast around 7:40 a.m. ET, although its effects had already been felt for hours.
The impact is expected to be widespread, with destructive winds, life-threatening storm surge, dangerous surf, torrential rainfall and flooding affecting multiple communities, and the potential for tornadoes remains. The storm is forecast to creep along the coast, dumping lots of water and lashing the area with winds.
About 400,000 are already without power in North Carolina, state emergency management officials said, and at least 13,000 are without power in South Carolina, per WMBF.
“Catastrophic freshwater flooding” is expected over parts of North and South Carolina.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 14, 2018
The National Hurricane Center said in its 2 p.m. update that Florence had sustained winds of 80 mph and was about 35 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, NC, and 35 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, SC, moving west at 5 mph. Oriental, NC, had so far received more than 19 inches of rain, with Surf City, Morehead City and Jacksonville getting at least 13 inches.
The mayor of New Bern, NC, said more than 200 had been rescued from floodwaters early Friday, with others waiting to be rescued.
A surge is also likely along portions of the South Carolina coast. Hurricane-force winds are expected to spread to other parts of the coast Friday. Inland flooding also is a concern.
The storm is expected to slow and move west-southwest on land, along extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern South Carolina Friday and Saturday. Florence will then move generally northward across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC stated.
9/14 11 AM EDT: Here are the Key Messages for #Hurricane #Florence. The life-threatening inland flood hazard will continue for days, even after it is no longer a tropical storm. https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/gUTmrlB7jZ
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 14, 2018
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 6 to 12 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.
Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 70 miles and tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for South Santee River, SC, to Bogue Inlet, NC, and Pamlico Sound.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC, and from Duck, NC, south to Bogue Inlet, including the Albemarle 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.
Areas along the coast from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, NC, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay rivers may experience storm surges from 9 to 13 feet.
Other areas facing a surge include:
- Cape Fear, NC, to Cape Lookout NC, 7 to 11 feet
- Cape Lookout, NC, to Ocracoke Inlet, NC, 6 to 9 feet
- South Santee River, SC, to Cape Fear, NC, 4 to 6 feet
- Ocracoke Inlet, NC, to Salvo, NC, 4 to 6 feet
- Salvo, NC, to Duck, NC, 2 to 4 feet
- Edisto Beach, SC, to South Santee River, SC, 2 to 4 feet
The full impact of the storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide. However, the surge is expected to be accompanied by large and destructive waves, regardless of when the storm arrives.
"Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread inland across the remainder of the warning area through Saturday," the NHC said.
The East Coast isn't the only area facing the brunt of a storm. Tropical Storm Olivia made a double landfall in Hawaii Wednesday morning, first in west Maui then Lanai, KHNL reports.
Torrential rains brought about significant flooding in some areas, with the rains expected to continue over Oahu through Thursday and possibly into Friday.
Olivia is the first tropical cyclone to make landfall on Maui in modern history, National Weather Service forecasters said.
Tropical Storm Isaac became Tropical Depression Isaac Friday morning. It's moving westward across the eastern Caribbean, where it's expected to bring tropical storm conditions and up to 5 inches of rain across the Windward Islands, Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico.
Up to 3 inches of rainfall are expected for parts of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic and Haiti, possibly causing life-threatening flash flooding.
Helene was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Thursday. It's moving north, and is expected to turn away from the U.S.
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 1,090 miles west-southwest of the Azores, is moving south-southwest at 8 mph. It's forecast to slow down and turn eastward by Friday night and then accelerate northeastward over the weekend.
And another disturbance is swirling around in the Gulf of Mexico. That system could develop into a tropical depression by Friday. The NHC is encouraging officials in northeastern Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to monitor its progress.
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