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15 September 2018, 07:15 | Ross Houston
A mother and infant in North Carolina are dead after a tree fell on their home - the first two fatalities of Hurricane Florence. The father was transported to a hospital for treatment.
In Hampstead, North Carolina, a woman died of a heart attack on Friday since emergency crews could not reach her due to fallen trees in road, local media reported. The National Weather Service said about 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches.
Parts of North Carolina could see enough torrential rain to qualify as a thousand-year flood, said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.
The storm was a unsafe Category 4 hurricane Wednesday but was downgraded Thursday night to a Category 1 storm.
The National Hurricane Center has downgraded it to a tropical storm, but warned that life-threatening storm surges - in which water is pushed by a storm over land that would normally be dry - and catastrophic freshwater flooding were still expected.
Storm surge, torrential rain and high winds over up to 90 miles per hour are stretching for hundreds of miles from the Outer Banks into SC.
By late afternoon, the centre of the storm was about 25 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.
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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"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", he said.
More than 430,000 people in North and SC are without power, and water is rising along the coast, where people in some towns have experienced dramatic rescues due to the towering storm surge.
After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225 km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.
Hurricane Florence slowed dramatically as it approached shallower waters along the coast, dropping from a Category 4 hurricane with 130 miles per hour (209 km/h) winds on Wednesday (Sept. 12) to a Category 2 Thursday.
On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air, and at least 525,000 homes and businesses were without power, almost all of them in North Carolina. "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you". The risky storm surge caused damage and flooding.
"Some say North Carolina is getting a break, but we are on the wrong side of this story", he said.
"Afterwards, I'm going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I'm walking the neighbourhood making sure my neighbours are fine because nobody can get in here".
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Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did. About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.
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