Hurricane Florence starts flooding parts of the Carolinas

Gradually, Friday through the weekend (local time), the massive storm - containing a zone of tropical-storm-force winds almost 643km wide - will drift inland, engulfing much of SC and southern North Carolina. He is warning of "the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm". The slow forward motion means Florence will batter the area with heavy rainfall, producing up to 40 inches in coastal North Carolina and northeastern SC.

The forecast calls for as much as 40 inches (102 centimetres) of rain over seven days along the coast, with the deluge continuing even as the centre of the storm pushes its way over the Appalachian Mountains.

With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The wide storm has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane and forecasters expect top winds to drop more as it nears the shore, but they're sharing a giant dose of uncertainty. One North Carolina woman packed flowers to leave on her son's grave. This is bigger than both of the Carolinas and THIS is why rain is the biggest issue.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents to remain alert despite changing forecasts.

However, forecasters say the storm's biggest threat is how much rain it is expected to produce.

"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said. North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

The National Hurricane Center said early Friday that Florence's eyewall is beginning to approach the North Carolina coast bringing with it life-threatening storm surge.

Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms.

Tropical-force winds extend 200 miles from the middle of the storm, meaning coastal North Carolina is already feeling their power.

A hurricane watch and storm surge watch are in effect for Edisto Beach in SC to South Santee River in SC.

Visit our sister site Live Science for the latest Hurricane Florence forecast.

Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.

Colgate coach Dan Hunt made a decision to pay it forward after the team's game against Furman was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. "We are totally prepared", Trump said at the White House.

Residents of the Carolinas and neighboring states should consult local authorities for any evacuation orders and other preparation guidelines.

In New Bern, rescue crews saved pulled hundreds of people from flooded homes and still needed to rescue dozens more on Saturday.

"It was pitch black and I was just scared out of my mind", said Tracy Singleton, who with her family later drove through torrential rain and high winds from her home near New Bern. For a depiction of areas at risk, please see the National Weather Service Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic, available at hurricanes.gov.

  • Carolyn Briggs