Hurricane Florence lashes United States east coast, triggers flood warnings

Ocean waters rushes down Hwy 12 in Frisco N.C. on Hatteras Island as the effects of Hurricane Florence breach the dune line on Thursday Sept. 13 2

HO/AFP/Getty Images In this September 12, 2018 photo provided by NASA, hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the USA east coast as seen from the International Space Station.

"We're a little anxious about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now", said Linda Smith, 67, a retired nonprofit director.

"Just because the wind speeds came down, the intensity of this storm came down to a Category 2, please do not let your guard down", said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. Some regions are expected to receive more than 20 inches of rain from the hurricane and its giant knot of storm clouds. "Your time is running out".

Operations at the ports of Wilmington, Charleston, South Carolina, and Norfolk in Virginia, which together handled 23 per cent of East Coast imports in 2017, have been disrupted by the storm.

The maximum sustained winds had dropped to 100 mph, but tropical-force winds extended up to 195 miles from the center of the storm.

The storm's centre was about 180km east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 2pm local time (18:00 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued. Along the coast, fewer homes have flood insurance than five years ago.

The result could be catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, fields and industrial sites.

"If I need to evacuate I can go to my son's house", Sparks said as he carted a load of water bottles to his auto.

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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference that the "historic" hurricane would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state in several feet of water.

"Don't relax, don't get complacent".

Hurricane Florence is a real, ongoing threat.

At least 88,000 people were without power in North Carolina with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to the state's emergency management agency.

The US National Hurricane Center described how winds of up to 90 miles (150 kilometers) per hour were pummeling the state of North Carolina. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind does. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1,100 trucks.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly. Overall, the storm is 400 miles wide.

"Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated", said Fisher, 74.

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