Hurricane Florence downgraded to Category 1 storm

Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm overnight on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale but it is still packing hurricane-force winds of 100 miles (155 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Tropical Storm Florence dumped "epic" amounts of rain on North and SC as it trudged inland on Saturday, triggering risky flooding, toppling trees, cutting power to almost a million homes and businesses while causing at least five deaths.

For Western North Carolina, the storm is not going to be felt until Saturday.

Emergency Management services in North Carolina are reporting that 497,255 customers are without power in North Carolina as Hurricane Florence makes landfall.

As Americans in North and SC begin to feel the effects of Hurricane Florence, The Weather Channel has reminded viewers of how unsafe storm surges can be.

Using computer graphics The Weather Channel showed how far inland Hurricane Florence's surge can reach, following low-lying streams.

The center said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days. It is moving northwest at 6 miles per hour.

A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina. As The Weather Channel noted, storm surges of nine feet or higher could be catastrophic, powerful enough to move cars and cover the first floor of buildings.

North Carolinians made last-minute preparations and hunkered down to await Florence's arrival.

Florence diminished from hurricane strength as it came ashore on Friday, but the large storm's slow progress across the two states could leave much of the region under water in the coming days, according to forecasters. Millions of people were expected to lose power from the storm and restoration could take weeks. Thousands have taken refuge in emergency shelters, officials said.

The path of Hurricane Florence sees it going over some of the poorest areas on the eastern seaboard.

The hurricane center is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast on Saturday with winds of around 130 kph before landfall, but with rainfall ranging from 50 to 75 centimeters and up to 4 meters of storm surge. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

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.

Officials say anyone who has not heeded mandatory evacuation orders is on his own.

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

State Transportation Department Secretary Christy Hall said Thursday that an estimated 421,000 residents had left the coast.

Constable said she's prepared for the worst.

"One minute we're at a high state of alert, the next we're at a low state, but we can adapt to the situation", said Capt. Eric Abdullah, of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, who said officials were trying to stay flexible.

"It helps us calm down", Tominiko said. "We're fully prepared. Food, medical, everything you can imagine, we are ready".

Wilmington resident Julie Terrell said she was concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters. "Storms of this magnitude have struck the USA coastline in the past, in some cases causing $10 billion or less in total damage".

  • Carolyn Briggs