Near 440,000 without power as Florence batters Carolinas

"We are totally prepared", Trump said at the White House. NASA via AP In this September 12, 2018 photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the US east coast as seen from the International Space Station.

Listen up, Mother Nature, we are not about to be hit by a hurricane without putting up a fight the best way we know how...by roasting the storm through the use of jokes on the internet.

Watch live coverage from Gray TV affiliate WITN out of Wilmington, N.C.

Inland cities and towns will not be spared from the storm, with anywhere from 5-20 inches of rain forecast to fall in many parts of North and SC. While inland areas may be spared the strongest winds, they could be vulnerable to flooding, especially if close to overflowing rivers.

A gauge in the city's Neuse River near the town of Oriental indicated the water was 4 feet over flood stage and more than 5 feet above normal levels. As Cooper said, "There's nowhere for the water to go".

"The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation and it's going to get worse", he said at a news conference in Raleigh. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

"I had a lot of fear initially but I'm glad to be inside and safe", said Zelda Allen, a 74-year-old retired tax accountant from Hampstead, North Carolina, who was riding out the storm at Wilmington's Hotel Ballast with her husband.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter.

Florence is already causing power outages, with the U.S. Energy Department reporting that almost 400,000 customers have lost power in North and SC.

Up to 165,000 residents in North Carolina are now without power and more than 3,000 inmates were evacuated from prisons by the North Carolina Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice.

The highest numbers are being reported in New Hanover County.

Despite the threat from rising tides, Risty-Davis said her family would continue to stay put, noting her neighborhood's previous success in avoiding power outages and flooding.

With the brunt of the storm yet to come, a gauge on the Neuse River in New Bern, a city near the coast, was already recording 10 feet (3 meters) of inundation, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. The agency adds that people trapped by flooding should "never enter attics or crawl spaces".

The Triangle still has a good possibility of seeing 50 miles per hour or higher winds.

The Category 1 storm is now gusting at wind speeds of about 90 miles per hour with heavy rain and storm surges expected for the region.

By early Saturday morning, Florence is expected to have weakened to a tropical storm, and by early Sunday, it will be a tropical depression. The hurricane center described the storm surge as "life-threatening".

Florence's center may linger for another whole day along coastal North and SC - punishing homes with crushing winds and floods and endangering those who've stayed behind.

"We have quite literally surrounded the expected affected area", he said. The storm, far weaker by early next week, is expected to track north along the Appalachian Mountains from Sunday to Wednesday.

State emergency officials said Thursday they had no way of tracking how many residents from the Carolinas had escaped to Florida this week.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters. Cooper said he hopes more shelters will also open today. Wilmington is expected to get battered before the storm drifts south.

  • Carolyn Briggs