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At least 4 dead as Florence downgraded to Tropical Storm
15 September 2018, 05:29 | Darnell Patrick
‘Catastrophic’ flooding expected by NHC; Hurricane Florence eyewall now reaching North Carolina coast
200 people have been rescued from homes in New Bern, while another 150 were trapped on Friday morning.
More than 60 people had to be evacuated from a motel at risk of collapse in Jacksonville.
As the giant, 400-mile-wide hurricane pounded away, it unloaded heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.
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: "The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come".
As of late Thursday, the hurricane center said Florence was 95 kilometers southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, with top sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour (90 mph).
Among the dead was a mother and her infant child, who were killed after a tree fell on their house. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man died when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said.
Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.
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Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms. Forecasters warned of "catastrophic" freshwater flooding along the Carolinas. Pieces of ripped-apart buildings flew through the air.
The NWS reported "lots of tree damage, debris and power lines down" across Harkers Island, N.C.
Now ~150 awaiting rescue in New Bern. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU" the city's Twitter page announced.
Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighborhood during Florence's assault.
The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.
"We lost power at home so we figured we should come to the bar", said Carla Mahaffee, a 33-year-old actor from Wilmington, as she drank a cider. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.
People have left homes and taken precautions ahead of the hurricane.
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