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At least 4 dead as Florence downgraded to Tropical Storm

Last Updated Sep 14, 2018 at 9:32 pm CDT

The centre of Tropical Storm Florence has moved into South Carolina, and both it and North Carolina continue to face powerful winds and catastrophic flooding.

Florence’s top sustained winds remain at 70 mph (110 kph) as it crawls west at just 3 mph (6 kph).

One city in North Carolina has picked up more than 23 inches (58 centimetres) of rain in two days.

The National Weather Service said on Twitter on Friday night that Morehead City had received 23.04 inches of rain with more heavy rain coming.

Forecasters have issued what they call a a flash flood emergency , saying areas of surrounding Carteret County are flooding that have never flooded before.

Forecasters say it is especially dangerous after dark because people trying to escape may not realize how deep flood water is on roads.

Officials recommend anyone whose home starts to flood get to the highest point they can and call 911.

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

“It’s an uninvited brute who doesn’t want to leave,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

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 parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges – the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane – as high as 10 feet.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. The deaths also included that of a person killed while plugging in a generator, the governor’s office said.

More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire. Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did.

Airlines cancelled more than 2,100 flights through Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually make a right hook to the northeast over the southern Appalachians, moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England as a tropical depression by the middle of next week.