Hurricane Florence’s eyewall is onshore in North Carolina on Friday and will make landfall very soon, as the Category 1 storm lashed the coast and appeared ready to cause catastrophic flooding.
State officials were bracing for the worst. A tattered American flag seen flying on a live surf camera at Frying Pan Tower in North Carolina was evidence of the strong wind gusts pounding the coast.
Authorities in the coastal city of New Bern, N.C., were working with federal responders to rescue at least 150 residents reported themselves stranded in Florence’s storm surge.
The storm was about 10 miles east of Wilmington, N.C., and about 80 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., the National Hurricane Center (NHC)’s 6 a.m. advisory said.
Emerald Isle, N.C. recorded 6.3 feet of storm surge “inundation,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A 5.5 foot surge of water near Morehead City was also recorded, the National Weather Service reported.
Even though Florence’s winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 140 mph earlier in the week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper maintained his warning.
“Don’t relax, don’t get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Today the threat becomes a reality,” Cooper said.
Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles.
Florence was moving west-northwest near 6 mph with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, the update said.
“On the forecast track, the center of Florence will approach the coasts of North and South Carolina later tonight, then move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina in the hurricane warning area on Friday,” the update said. “A slow motion across portions of eastern and central South Carolina is forecast Friday night through Saturday night.”
The storm is likely to bring significant rain to the Carolinas, where some places could see upwards of 20 inches, the update said. This is expected to cause “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.”
North Carolina has 169,411 power outages across the state as of early Friday morning, officials said.
Schools and businesses as far south as Georgia were closed, about 1,200 flights and counting were canceled, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.