Hurricane Florence Hits Outer Banks Home on Stilts With Storm Surge

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Hurricane Florence's leading edge is battering the Carolina coast, bending trees and shooting frothy sea water over streets, as the hulking storm closes in with 160kph winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend. It is now at Category 1.

North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centres in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and Masters said Florence would still be an extremely unsafe storm for rain and storm surge.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference, that a "historic storm" would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state.

Officials say anyone who has not heeded mandatory evacuation orders is on his own.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

In the North Carolina town of Wilmington, which could take a direct hit from Florence, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.

Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

"One minute we're at a high state of alert, the next we're at a low state, but we can adapt to the situation", said Capt. Eric Abdullah, of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, who said officials were trying to stay flexible. "We have a safe basement and generator that comes on automatically".

As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 85 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5 mph.

The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 144 km/h by nightfall. Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.

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Storm surge and hurricane warnings were issued for most of the North and SC coastline.

"What we've seen as far as people actually evacuating, just from monitoring evacuation routes, seems there's been a pretty light amount of people evacuating", Ms. Norton said.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 160 kph, but that could still cause at least $1 billion in damage.

Rain bands are already affecting the eastern part of North Carolina and SC, with rain increasing and waves growing.

Duke Energy Corp, the biggest utility in the area with over 4 million customers, estimated the storm could cause between 1 million and 3 million outages.

Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the storm with his dog Canelo.

"The shelters are not taking dogs", Ramirez said.

In Wilmington, residents who had decided not to evacuate were lining up to get ice from a vending machine - $2 for a 16-pound bag.

Another Wilmington resident said she does not want to leave because she is afraid to see what she would be coming back to.

Perched on the porch of his home, carpenter Tony Albright was calmly awaiting Florence's arrival, beer in hand.

"I end up hearing more negative stories about leaving than staying", Mrs. Mramer said. "The only thing missing in there is a hot lady".

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