Florence lumbers inland, leaving five dead, communities flooded

People wait in line to fill up their gas cans at a gas station that was damaged when Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington, North Carolina.

Florence "will continue to track slowly inland through the Carolinas this weekend", the National Weather Service said in its 8:00 a.m. update Saturday.

As Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical storm, continued to chart a path of destruction across North and SC on Saturday, school gymnasiums morphed into makeshift shelters for thousands of people displaced from their homes in nearby flood-prone areas.

It has already claimed five victims, with a mother and her baby crushed by a tree in North Carolina. These rains are expected to produce "prolonged, significant river flooding". The price tag on the rebuild efforts for areas devastated by storm surge, which was expected to reach as high as 20 feet in some areas, was still impossible to quantify. In South Carolina, some 36,000 customers are without power. Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com estimates Florence could dump about 18 trillion gallons (68 trillion liters) of rain.

Pfaff said Eastern North Carolina residents can expect flash flooding over the course of the day Saturday.

In Lenoir County a 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords and another man died after being blown away by high winds while checking on his dogs. The tropical storm's maximum sustained winds are holding steady, remaining at around 50 miles per hour, with higher gusts in heavy rainbands over water, the NWS said.

"Were expecting additional rainfall across southeastern central into southern North Carolina and across Northern parts of SC where additional rainfall amounts that could exceed 10 inches". He warned that rivers continue to rise after the heaviest rains have fallen.

Over 100 people remain trapped in New Bern, a town on the Neuse River which has been hit hard by rain and flooding. In previous hurricanes in North Carolina, residents lived in trailers while they rebuilt or found permanent housing.

North Carolina utilities estimated that as many as 2.5 million state residents could be left without power, the state's Department of Public Safety said. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".

Holt, who has diabetes and clogged arteries, said she stayed for doctor's appointments that were canceled at the last minute.

North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, had about 7 inches.

The national meteorological center says southern China "will face a severe test caused by wind and rain" and urged officials to prepare for possible disasters.

Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C., on September 14, 2018.

The page says service animals aren't barred from evacuation shelters, beaches shouldn't be used for sand bags, and evacuation orders aren't enforced by FEMA.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted during the height of the storm.

Emergency management officials and nonprofit groups aren't waiting for Florence's rains to end or floodwaters to recede before starting to help people recover from the storm.

  • Carolyn Briggs