U.S. coast battered by wind, rain as Hurricane Florence closes in

Chip Somodevilla  Getty Images

Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 storm late Thursday, and now contains maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour with higher gusts.

One resident, 67-year-old Linda Smith, told the MailOnline: "We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now". Its center was moving west at only 6 mph (9 km/h) and about 50 miles south of Morehead City at around 1 a.m. (0500 GMT Friday).

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

"Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that's what we're about to see", Long added.

The hurricane's storm surge is already visibly dramatic and represents an ongoing danger as the tides come in and the storm's winds continue to push more water over land.

Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet (4m) have been forecast in some areas when the monster storm eventually makes landfall in North and SC.

Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina early Friday, pushing a life-threatening storm surge of floodwater miles inland and ripping apart buildings with screaming wind and pelting rain.

At the North Carolina Zoo, workers this week were trying to figure out what to do with 1,600 animals. A gust of 105 miles per hour (169 kph) was recorded at Wilmington airport, surpassing the power of Hurricane Fran two decades ago. We will have tropical storm force winds and rain and storm surge continues to be our main concern with extreme flooding.

By the time it leaves, it's expected to have unloaded 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina, weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said.

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In April, The State newspaper in Columbia reported that an Army investigation had faulted Fort Jackson officials' handling of a 2015 storm that caused an 80-year-old earthen dam to crumble and release 100 million gallons of water.

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. He talks about the "adrenaline rush" from reporting from the front lines, and in the same breath talks about all the risks first responders have to take to rescue people who refused to evacuate. "So we really have a new hustle this morning to get the rest of those 150 people out".

Farther up the coast, in New Bern, about 150 people waited to be rescued from floods on the Neuse River, WXII-TV reported.

"In a matter of seconds, my house was flooded up to the waist, and now it is to the chest", said Peggy Perry, who along with three relatives, was trapped early Friday in her New Bern home, according to CNN.

Although the storm has weakened to a Category 2, it's still expected to bring some bad weather to the area this weekend.

Flock said the back end of the storm, when it does arrive, is not expected to be as strong, so the area could avoid catastrophic wind damage and storm surges.

As of 7:30 a.m. EST, 402,974 residents were experiencing power outages, according to the North Carolina Department of Safety.

More than 440,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and SC early on Friday, utility officials said.

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