"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire. Although the storm is passing north of Myrtle Beach, the concern now is that river water from North Carolina will flow into the area and combine with all the water that is already there. Officials did not know his condition as of 3:30 p.m. Friday. Rains have been relentless, and Florence continues to dump a "catastrophic" amount of water in its path.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds its way across land. As all that run-off fills rivers, the damage will only worsen.
"Remember that rivers will keep rising for days even after the rain stops", he warned. "The storm is wreaking havoc on our state".
Florence weakened somewhat after making landfall and on Saturday was a tropical storm that had sustained winds of 50 mph as it churned about 40 miles west of Myrtle Beach, S.C., the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 11 a.m. Saturday. Tomorrow, forecasters expect it to climb over nine feet. By Friday morning Florence had already sapped power to almost 450,000 customers in the Carolinas, emergency officials said.
In New Bern, the picturesque riverfront town and birth place of Pepsi, where the Neuse and Trent rivers meet, incoming Mayor Sabrina Bengel said hundreds had been rescued after residents began calling before daybreak as waters rose to rooftops.
"Hurricanes normally come in and they go inland, which sucks the power out of them as they go over the land", he said. "It's been occurring all night".
There had been three confirmed deaths from the storm and several others were being investigated to determine if they were storm-related, he said.
The National Hurricane Center said early Friday that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3 feet (1.92 meters) of inundation. The storm is moving slowly - only about half the speed of a brisk walk.
Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 3.4 metres of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 0.9 metres of rain, touching off severe flooding.
The city warns that people "may need to move up to the second story" but tells them to stay put as "we are coming to get you".
About 20,000 people hunkered down in 157 schools, shelters and a coliseum in Winston-Salem.
Florence crashed ashore Friday morning in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, and it has wiped out power to about 950,000 customers in that state and SC.
Neighbour Adam Sparks said he noticed emergency responders arrive at the house across the street right around when his power went out and the storm was intensifying. Eventually, a volunteer rescue team from IN arrived with a boat and rescued them. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury. On the waterfront the wind was blowing hard along the sand, whipping it into the air. NY emergency workers reported rescuing elderly residents at a New River retirement community.
Horry County officials told The Sun News that emergency personnel are still responding to calls and never stopped.
Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm with diminished winds, but it has stalled over the Wilmington region as predicted and will continue drenching the area with historic and catastrophic rain, the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m. briefing.