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Video, Hurricane Florence updates: US coast battered by wind and rain

Hurricane Florence batters North Carolina with howling winds, life-threatening storm surges and torrential rains

Hurricane Florence batters the Carolinas with howling winds, life-threatening storm surges and torrential rains. Officials warned that it is once in a lifetime event. Follow our live updates. (All times UAE. North Carolina is eight hours behind UAE time)

5.01pm

 

3.45pm

Florence makes landfall

Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Friday, pushing a life-threatening storm surge of floodwater miles inland and ripping apart buildings with screaming wind and pelting rain.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued. Pieces of buildings ripped apart by the storm flew through the air.

Most ominously, forecasters said the terrifying onslaught would last for hours and hours because Florence was barely creeping along at 9 kp/h and still drawing energy from the ocean.

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 am at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington, as the center of its eye moved onshore, the National Hurricane Center said.

Coastal streets flowed with frothy ocean water, and more than 460,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation’s electrical grid.

Forecasters said “catastrophic” freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.

Hurricane-force winds extended 130 kilometers from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached out to 315 kilometers.

Winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence moved in for an extended stay, with enough of its killer winds swirling overseas to maintain its power. Forecasters said the onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina as Hurricane Florence approaches the area. AP

Hurricane Florence makes landfall in North Carolina, hitting state with life-threatening rainfall.  

2.45pm

Water rescues underway

Lifesaving water rescues are underway and local officials were reporting major structural damage and power outages.

The storm surge had reached 7 feet on Emerald Isle, North Carolina, and could climb as high as 11 feet elsewhere, while rainfall up to 40 inches is expected to bring widespread inland flooding.

About 150 people awaited rescue early Friday in the riverfront city of New Bern, North Carolina. “You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU,” the city wrote on Twitter.

2.13pm

Hurricane Florenece set to make landfall

In this Sept. 12, 2018 photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the U.S. east coast as seen from the International Space Station. AP

The powerful storm already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say that “catastrophic” freshwater flooding is expected over portions of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence inches closer to the U.S. East Coast.

2pm

Hurricane Florence eye 10 miles from Wilmington

National Hurricane Center: Florence about to make landfall in N. Carolina causing life-threatening storm surge.

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.

As of 6 a.m., Florence was 10 miles (20 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

The Miami-based center says Florence is bringing “catastrophic” fresh water flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas.

1:50 pm

70 people rescued from a hotel

A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence.

The city of Jacksonville’s statement says people have been moved to the city’s public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter.

Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing.

None of the people rescued were injured.

Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.

As of 5 a.m., Florence was 25 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence’s arrival would come with “catastrophic” fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.

12:25pm

Around 150 people waiting to be rescued

A North Carolina city situated between two rivers says it has around 150 people waiting to be rescued from rising flood waters from Hurricane Florence.

WXII-TV reports the city of New Bern said Friday that two out-of-state FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more teams were on the way. City spokeswoman Colleen Roberts tells WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been rescued.

The National Hurricane Center says the Neuse River near the city is recording more than 10 feet (3.05 meters) of inundation. Roberts says the storm surge continues to increase as Florence passes over the area.

The city warns that people “may need to move up to the second story” but tells them to stay put as “we are coming to get you.”

11:30am

Life-threatening storm surge

Life-threatening storm surge is being reported along the coast of the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center said early Friday that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of Wilmington.

As of 3 a.m., Florence hadn’t moved and was still centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

10 am

Freshwater flooding

The National Hurricane Center says that “catastrophic” freshwater flooding is expected over portions of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence inches closer to the U.S. East Coast.

The now Category 1 storm’s intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 mph (135 kph) by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm’s slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

As of 2 am (US local time), Florence was centered about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

7am

Coastal streets flooded

Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come.

Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence’s leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.

The storm’s intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 mph (135 kph) by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm’s slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

Forecasters said Florence’s surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding.

Monster storm to trigger life-threatening flooding 

The outer edge of Hurricane Florence began buffeting the Carolinas with wind and rain on Thursday as forecasters warned the monster storm would trigger life-threatening flooding as it assaults the US east coast.

As Florence churned slowly towards the coasts of North and South Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane, federal and state officials issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the “once in a lifetime” weather system.

“This storm will bring destruction,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “Catastrophic effects will be felt.”

UAE Embassy issues advisory

Federal emergency management officials warned that Florence – while weakening slightly – remains a “very dangerous storm” capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the coast.

“Just because the wind speed came down, the intensity of this storm came down to a Cat 2, please do not let your guard down,” said Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Warning of looming storm surges of 2.7 to 3.6 metres, he urged residents to take the storm seriously no matter the category, saying “this is all about the water anyway.”

Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm overnight on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale but it is still packing hurricane-force winds of 155 kilometres per hour, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Winds were already picking up along the coastline early Thursday and some minor flooding was reported on the Outer Banks, barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, and in some seaside coastal towns.

People flee from coast

Myrtle Beach, a South Carolina beach resort, was virtually deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.

And in Wilmington, North Carolina, a steady rain began to fall as gusts of winds intensified, causing trees to sway and stoplights to flicker.

Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School.

“We live in a mobile home so we were just like ‘No way,'” she said. “If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing.”

“But we can’t replace us so we decided to come here.”

Monster storm surge expected

At 5pm (1am UAE), Florence was over the Atlantic Ocean about 160 kilometres east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and moving west-northwest at eight kilometres per hour, the NHC said.

Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Florence’s forward motion had slowed overnight and it was not expected to make landfall in the Carolinas until “some time Friday afternoon, Friday evening or Saturday morning.”

He said hurricane-force winds extend outward 130 kilometres from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extend nearly 320 kilometres out.

Some areas could receive as much as 100cm of rain, forecasters said.

“This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding,” the NHC said.

A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.

“This is a very dangerous storm,” said FEMA’s Long, urging people still in evacuation zones to heed orders to flee to safer ground.

“Your time is running out,” he warned.

Long said the danger was not only along the coast. “Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that’s what we’re about to see,” he said.

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 what officials called a “once in a lifetime” storm.

South Carolina ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina announced an evacuation of the Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination.

In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were told to flee.

A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia – as well as the US capital Washington.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

‘Catastrophic effects’

Not everybody was heeding orders to evacuate, however.

Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo.

“The shelters are not taking dogs,” Ramirez said. “I’m not leaving him here.

In Wilmington, residents who had decided not to evacuate were lining up to get ice from a vending machine – $2 for a 7.2-kilo bag.

“I have no generator,” said Petra Langston, a nurse. “I learned from the past to keep the ice in the washing machine.”

– with inputs from agencies

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