'Catastrophic' Florence Buffets US East Coast

Residents wade through deep floodwater to retrieve belongings from the Trent Court public housing apartments after the Neuse River went over its banks during Hurricane Florence

Long-duration, damaging wind gusts of 55 miles per hour or greater and saturated ground may cause a tremendous amount of trees to fall and lead to widespread power outages from the southern tip of Delmarva to Charleston, South Carolina and as far inland as Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, to Columbia, South Carolina. "This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina". The child's father was taken to a hospital.

Winds and rain were arriving later in SC, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded.

A major natural disaster due to inland flooding will unfold slowly as Florence drifts inland and may linger for days and a week or more after Florence's eventual departure and/or demise. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

"To those in the storm's path, if you can hear me, please stay sheltered in place", he said at a news conference in Raleigh, adding that Florence would "continue its violent grind across the state for days". Gerst pleaded with people living in the area to heed evacuation orders, warning them there is a "nightmare coming for you".

As of 11 p.m., Florence was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 5 mph (7 kph).

The community of Avon on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands reported wind gusts of 74 miles per hour (119 km per hour), while Morehead City on the mainland coast had received 3.6 inches (9.1 cm) of rain in the past 13 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

In Wilmington, a city of about 120,000 people on North Carolina's Atlantic coastline along the Cape Fear River that is home to historic mansions and even a decommissioned World War Two-era battleship, streets were strewn with downed tree limbs and carpeted with leaves and other debris. "It's going to be a devastating time for many, many people up and down the coast", as she removed items from an office and moved boats into a cove. Floodwaters may enter tens of thousands of structures and could make many uninhabitable.

Holt, who has diabetes and clogged arteries, said she stayed for doctor's appointments that were canceled at the last minute. "Many that will accept them only allow one per room". It's believed he died after he was blown down while going outside to check on his dogs.

"It's insane", he said in a phone interview.

"I hope they made the right decision".

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U.S. Southeast power companies said more than 98,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina, Virginia and SC were without power on Thursday as Hurricane Florence approached the coast.

Utility companies are predicting power outages that could reach between one-to-three million across both North and SC for days and possibly weeks.

USA forecasters today downgraded Hurricane Florence to a Category 1 storm, as its outer edge lashed the Carolinas with strong winds and heavy rain.

Florence is forecast to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, as a Category 2 or Category 1 storm Friday morning. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.

"These bays, these rivers and these inlets, there's so much storm surge the water is being literally forced to flow the opposite direction", Graham said.

Browning said she had started a GoFundMe campaign in case repairs are needed for the family home.

Her neighbors gave her the key to their house, which is two stories and might be safer from flooding, she said.

The plentiful waste pits are one of a number of environmental hazards in the path of Florence, including Superfund sites, coal plants and chemical factories.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm.

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