Hurricane Florence: 'Catastrophic' storm surge could cause 3-metre-deep flooding

Hurricane Florence is tropical cyclone nearing the Southeastern United States

Live web cams and video footage are showing the devastation from Florence's storm surges with one showing water shooting past houses after breaking through flood barriers.

Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and knocked out power to more than 700,000 homes and businesses, and the assault wasn't near an end.

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.

The now Category 1 storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 135 km/h by nightfall.

Hurricane Florence made its swipe at Wilmington Friday, cutting power to thousands and priming eastern North Carolina for major flooding in the days ahead.

It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), but a gust of 112 miles per hour (180 kph) was reported just offshore.

Rescuers in North Carolina meanwhile were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes.

At 7 a.m., the center of the eye was located about 5 miles (10 kilometers) east of Wilmington, moving west at 6 mph.

Florence has left at least six people dead, including a mother and her child who died after a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina, police said.

There were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries, but authorities said more than 100 people were rescued further north in New Bern, where the downtown area of the city of 30,000 people was under water.

Its storm surge and the prospect of 1 to 3½ feet of rain were considered a bigger threat than its winds, which dropped way down from a terrifying 140 miles per hour - Category 4 - earlier in the week.

WHAT'S HAPPENING: Florence will pose fatal threat for days

Tropical Storm Florence is still posing life-threatening surges in portions of North and SC.

Forecasters have warned of "life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding" in North and SC.

Not everyone was taking Florence seriously: About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night behind the boarded-up windows of The Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington. A tweet from the NWS said the storm would be "a marathon vs. a sprint" as it hovered over the area dumping heavy rainfall.

At least 188,000 people were without power in North Carolina and SC early on Friday.

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.

Florence "will produce catastrophic flooding over parts of North and SC for some time", NOAA official Steve Goldstein said.

The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas. Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did. Calls for help kept coming in as the wind picked up and the tide arrived, said city public information officer Colleen Roberts.

The National Hurricane Center says the Neuse River near the city is recording more than 10 feet (3.05 meters) of inundation.

And Florence is not alone - two more hurricanes are brewing, CNN says.

"What happens is that we rescue some people and then we find out there are still more who need it", he said.

Most ominously, forecasters said the terrifying onslaught would last for hours and hours, because Florence was barely creeping along and still drawing energy from the ocean. Florence's rain will reach 40 inches in some parts of the Carolina coasts, forecasters said.

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