The storm was about 35 miles east of Wilmington, N.C., and about 50 miles southwest of Morehead City, N.C., the National Hurricane Center's 2 a.m. EDT Friday advisory said.
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.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: "NO WAY" Trump pushes back on ex-lawyer putting out book, cites "attorney-client privilege" Wealthiest Republican supporter in OH quits party MORE plans to travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence next week once conditions improve and his visit won't disrupt recovery efforts, the White House said Friday. As the storm stalled, forecasters warned "torrential rains will come:" an additional 20 to 25 inches in eastern North Carolina and up to 15 inches inland.
The National Hurricane Centre said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.
The Ahold Delhaize USA chain said on its website that it has temporarily shut 126 stores in North Carolina, 53 in SC and four in Virginia.
For every degree the air warms, it can hold almost 4 percent more water (7 percent per degree Celsius) and offer measurably more energy to goose the storm, scientists said. Scientists say they are wetter, possess more energy and intensify faster.
Along the coast, floodwaters have been hitting inland towns near rivers that normally discharge into the ocean.
The city had to suspend rescue operations as conditions worsened, but promised trapped residents in a tweet: "We are coming to get you".
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Threat becomes reality as Hurricane Florence closes in
The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions. The impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide.
In Wilmington, near where the eye of the hurricane touched down, trees and power lines were down and many windows had been broken.
Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and SC ahead.
"It's a hard situation for all of us", said city fire chief Buddy Martinette.
Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to drop torrential rain across the state as the system moves into SC.
Nearly 20,000 people had taken refuge in 157 emergency shelters, Mr Cooper said.
"WPD can confirm the first two fatalities of Hurricane #Florence in Wilmington".
Just like in Superstorm Sandy, scientists said it is clear that hurricane storm surge is worsened by sea level rise because the power of 6 to 10 feet of water comes on top of seas that were considerably lower decades ago.
About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.
"I'm a bit skeptical about detection and attribution of specific weather events", said Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center.
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In a release dated Thursday the company had said it would "be upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods across the state". The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to investigate, saying pipelines are within its jurisdiction.
Hurricane Florence: North Carolina residents urged to leave
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles. Utility officials have warned that widespread power outages are likely and that it could take weeks to restore electricity.
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It said: "Accordingly, the committee has made a decision to implement a strong monetary tightening to support price stability". Against expectations, the central bank did not raise rates at its last meeting in July.