North Carolina Feels First Bite Of Hurricane Florence

Don't play games with it, says Trump as Hurricane Florence heads for US East Coast

Don't play games with it, says Trump as Hurricane Florence heads for US East Coast

St. Helena Island near the South Carolina-Georgia line is used to riding out big storms - from one that killed an estimated 2,000 people in 1893 to Tropical Storm Irma previous year.

Coastal North Carolina felt the first bite of Hurricane Florence on Thursday as winds began to rise, a prelude to the slow-moving tempest that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the us southeast.

"The larger and slower the storm is, the greater the threat and impact, and we have that here", NHC Director Ken Graham said on Thursday.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper urged residents to remain alert despite changing forecasts.

Hurricane Matthew, which came ashore in SC last October, plunged about 2 million homes and businesses into darkness.

A primary power supplier in the Carolinas, Duke Energy is already warning that some 75 percent of its 4 million customers could lose power - and not just for a few hours. More than 26,000 hunkered down in shelters. "This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the Hurricane Center said.

Rain is expected to begin in Charlotte late Friday evening and into Saturday.

Serious flooding was also reported in SC, and several coastal communities were placed under nighttime curfews during the storm. One North Carolina woman packed flowers to leave on her son's grave. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the federal level Tuesday for the Carolinas and Virginia. "Be careful!" Trump tweeted.

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A Category 2 storm means winds of 96-110 miles per hour; a Category 3 storm means 111-129 miles per hour.

Eduardo Corta cuts plywood boards to put on his mobile home a day before the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina. The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".

Hurricane and storm surge warnings are in effect for most of the North and SC coastline. "We go through a lot of these hurricane scares throughout the years", Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said.

"The worst is yet to come", he added. If the storm makes landfall as a Category 2, these winds will be damaging, sustained at up to 160km/h or so with higher gusts. These unforgiving winds will damage homes and buildings, down trees and knock out power. Florence's heavy rains could cause an environmental disaster if waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites washes into homes or threatens drinking water supplies.

According to the National Hurricane Center's "hurricane hunter" airplane, waves of 83-feet were measured near the eye of Florence on Monday.

Some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges as high as 10ft (3m) in places.

Parts of New Bern, North Carolina, which is home to 30,000 people, were 10ft (3m) underwater on Friday. The Charleston area is under a storm surge watch.

A woman died from cardiac arrest in the town of Hampstead after emergency responders had their route to her blocked by downed trees, a county official said.

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