Hurricane Florence lashes United States east coast, triggers flood warnings

Federico Mansilla
Setiembre 15, 2018

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police.

Police confirmed the fatalities on Twitter, saying the father of the child was being transported to a local medical centre to be treated for his injuries. No other information was given.

The powerful Category 1 storm is making its way south along the Carolina coast hours after making technical landfall early Friday morning. This is expected to cause "catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding".

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Florence has finally made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina.

New Bern's WCTI television employees fled their studio Thursday night due to rising flood waters.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared previous year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths in the desperate aftermath.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 68 trillion litres of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

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Forecasters said conditions will continue to deteriorate as the storm makes its way slowly inland. Restoring power to all customers could take weeks, it said.

The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before dawn in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.

"[It's] very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", Orsa, who lives nearby and fears splintering trees will pummel her house, told The Associated Press.

More than 80,000 people in North Carolina already were without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

Florence had been a Category-3 hurricane on Thursday but dropped to Category-1 before coming ashore.

As of 1 p.m. ET, the storm's sustained winds dropped to 75 miles per hour as it wobbled west-southwestward near the coast, delaying its expected move inland, the National Hurricane Center said.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been put under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders to avoid what emergency officials called a "once in a lifetime" storm.

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