Hurricane Florence flooding 'could wipe out entire communities'

WITN is reporting two people were killed in Lenoir County.

As of 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) Florence was producing tropical storm-strength winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) an hour, while it lashed the Carolinas with heavy rains and threatened deadly flash flooding.

In Wilmington, near where the eye of the hurricane touched down, trees and power lines were down and many windows had been broken.

"It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave", said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

Police in Wilmington, North Carolina, tweeted that a mother and infant died when a tree fell on their house; the baby's father was injured. Restoring power to all customers could take weeks, it said.

In aggregate, this can have serious repercussions for businesses that aren't dedicated to fixing up cars and clearing water damage: according to one estimate, retailers suffered $1 billion in negative impacts from Hurricane Harvey and almost $2.8 billion from Hurricane Irma, including damage to stores and warehouses as well as lost sales. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

At that time, Florence was a Category 1 storm but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.

As of 1 p.m. ET, more than a foot of rain had fallen in many towns in southeastern North Carolina. Other communities got well over a foot.

On the forecast track, the center of the storm is expected to move inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern SC on Friday and Saturday. The storm is expected to turn west and then north moving through the Carolinas and the Ohio Valley by Monday, the NHC said early on Saturday.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

During Hurricane Matthew in 2016 - North Carolina's last major hurricane - the state counted 4,071 people in 109 shelters.

The NHC described Florence as a "slow mover" and said it had the potential to dump historic amounts of rainfall on North and SC, as much as 40 inches (one meter) in some places. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches of water, he calculated.

Cline said July was the wettest ever in that part of North Carolina, and the water table rose 21 inches higher than normal.

Coastal streets flowed with frothy ocean water and tens of thousands lost electricity. It was crawling west at 5 miles per hour (7 kph).

Officials in New Bern, which dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon.

Downtown New Bern, on the Neuse River also is flooded.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted around 2am local time.

"We moved all the furniture up in case the water comes in but the water seems to be staying at the edge of the driveway", he said, adding that if the wind picks up and the rain keeps coming, that could change. Officials say more than 100 people have already been rescued in the area overnight.

"We're very familiar in Columbia with the flooding of 2015", McMaster said. "We've had it reported to where it's over mailboxes, to the stairs of homes, even at first, second floors to where people are having to get on their roofs".

  • Essie Rivera