Florence, which arrived on land as a category one hurricane, will be the first test of the Trump administration's response to a major natural disaster since Hurricane Maria pounded the United States territory of Puerto Rico in 2017. As of 5 a.m. Saturday, the storm's center was about 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.
Gusts of winds in the 50 to 100 mph hour range were also reported since Hurricane Florence came ashore at 7:15 a.m. Friday, and the National Hurricane Center predicted trees would be knocked down. Its forward movement was 6 miles per hour (9 kph).
Hurricane Florence, weakened but still risky, has crashed into the Carolinas on Friday as a giant, slow-moving storm that stranded residents with floodwaters and swamped part of the town of New Bern at the beginning of what could be a days-long deluge.
The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.
Two other people died in North Carolina's Carteret County, according to the county's emergency management services office.
Florence has landed in the Myrtle Beach area, bringing rain, wind and flooding.
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As 400-mile-wide (645-kilometer-wide) Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach more than 360 people besieged by rising waters in New Bern, North Carolina, while many of their neighbors awaited help.
Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of North and SC.
"In about four days when all the water comes down from North Carolina, that's when we're going to have a problem".
Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.
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.
More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught on the coast would last for hours and hours because Florence had come nearly to a dead halt at just 3 mph (6 kph) as of midday. A town spokesman said between 60 and 75 people were awaiting rescue on Saturday.
There have been "several hundred" rescue operations, Governor Cooper said.
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A fourth person was killed while plugging in a generator in Lenoir County, north of Wilmington , WITN-TV reported. More than 1.7 million people in Virginia, North and SC were told to evacuate ahead of Florence's arrival.
"Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience". Some residents were anxious less about flooding and more about an extensive period without power.
Prisoners were affected, too.
More than 810,000 people lacked power in North Carolina, and another 170,000 outages were reported in SC, according to emergency-management agencies.
For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: "NO WAY" Trump pushes back on ex-lawyer putting out book, cites "attorney-client privilege" Wealthiest Republican supporter in OH quits party MORE has approved a disaster declaration for North Carolina as the state deals with Tropical Storm Florence, the White House announced Saturday.
Spanish moss waved in the trees as the winds picked up in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.
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