At least 3 dead as Hurricane Florence pounds the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence approaches landfall in North Carolina; more than 80,000 without power

Hurricane Florence approaches landfall in North Carolina; more than 80,000 without power

Hurricane Florence lumbered ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, splintering buildings and trapping hundreds of people in high water as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.

At least 88,000 people were without power in North Carolina with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to the state's emergency management agency.

Though landfall comes early Friday morning, the coastal Carolinas have been feeling the effects of Florence since Thursday morning when outer rain bands starting moving onshore.

Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour (225 km/h), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night in the US.

The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.

A tree uprooted by strong winds lies along a street in Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday.

The powerful Atlantic storm began battering the Carolinas with rain, wind and floodwater.

The Category 1 hurricane's center is expected to crash onshore midmorning Friday, then linger for another whole day, unloading flash flooding, pounding wind and towering storm surges at least through Saturday.

The surge could reach up to nine feet in some areas along rivers, as the risky hurricane will pummel the shore during high tide.

As Florence raged, a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico brought heavy rain to already saturated areas along the Texas coast, resulting in street flooding and prompting some schools to cancel or cut short classes.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing cinderblock motel. Also, one person was killed while plugging in a generator, and a man was knocked to the ground while outside and died, authorities said.

"A basketball sized hole was found in a corner room by an Officer", officials said. The town's public information officer, Colleen Roberts, told CNN 150 more people were awaiting rescue.

The town of Oriental, North Carolina, had gotten more than 18 inches of rain just a few hours into the deluge, while Surf City had 14 inches and it was still coming down.

About 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it's unclear how many did, officials said.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter. "You're going to have flooding miles and miles inland", the center's director, Ken Graham, said.

Florence was one of two major storms on Friday.

"You can't get over till we have power and we have sewer up and running", said the retired teacher and real estate agent, who rode out the hurricane in an inland hotel.

But the hurricane's sheer size meant it could batter the U.S. East Coast with hurricane-force winds for almost a full day, according to weather forecasters.

Florence, which already has left tens of thousands without electricity, was 80 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., as of 6 a.m.

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

And they say people who are truly in an emergency should call 911, not just Tweet about it.

Florence's rain will be relentless, with up to 40 inches expected in some parts of the Carolina coasts, forecasters said.

"The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come", North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said.

Wind gusts leading to downed trees and/or power outages is the biggest threat.

Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of sea water.

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