Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Florence downgraded to a tropical storm; continues to pummel Carolinas

Florence downgraded to a tropical storm; continues to pummel Carolinas

Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wilmington on Friday morning, battering the coastal city with strong winds and torrential rain.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Florence was set to cover nearly all of the state in several feet of water.

Speaking with NPR's Morning Edition, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper described the storm as "an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave".

"If this thing comes inland and stops in eastern North Carolina like they forecast it, and we get two days of continuous rain, the rain will be our biggest damage", he said.

Winds up to 80 miles per hour are lashing the coast, and a storm surge up to 11 feet high is expected in some areas, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Scientists can't say - yet - that climate change helped make Florence worse.

Roy Cooper, governor for North Carolina, said: "The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation and it's going to get worse".

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That's about 220 miles from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. September 14, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

More than 10 million people throughout North and SC and Virginia are under a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning as of Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

The total bill for damage from Florence could eventually reach $US10 billion ($13.8b) to $US20 billion ($27.7b), said Chuck Watson, a disaster researcher at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.

Florence crashed into the Carolina coast on Friday, felling trees, dumping almost three feet of rain on some spots and leading to the death of four people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.

Video reports from several towns in the Carolinas showed emergency personnel wading through rippling thigh-high floodwaters in residential neighborhoods. The storm could drop up to 40 inches of rain, causing "catastrophic" floods and a "life-threatening" situation, the NHC said.

Police said 150 to 200 residents have been rescued earlier on Friday and 150 or more were still awaiting rescue. Restoring power to all customers could take weeks, it said. Significant weakening was expected over the weekend.

"I'm anxious about what I might find when I go home, though", she said. The town of Oriental, North Carolina, got more than 50 centimeters just a few hours into the deluge. Super Typhoon Mangkhut was expected to hit an area in the Philippines on Saturday that would affect 5.2 million people.

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