Five dead in Carolinas as Florence brings ´epic´ floods

Credit PA

Credit PA

Mother Lesha Murphy-Johnson and her baby, Zac, were killed after being trapped inside their home in Wilmington when a tree fell onto the roof at around 9.30am on Friday.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", Ballance said.

"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.

Radar loop of Florence over the last 24 hours.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared past year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000.

It diminished from hurricane force as it came ashore, but forecasters said the 350-mile-wide storm's slow progress across North and SC could leave much of the region under water in the coming days.

"Florence slowly weakening just inland over eastern SC but causing catastrophic flooding over North and SC", the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said early Saturday morning, after downgrading it from a hurricane to a tropical storm the previous day.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern SC, as well as up to 10 inches (25 cm) in southwestern Virginia. As the storm stalled, forecasters warned "torrential rains will come:" an additional 20 to 25 inches in eastern North Carolina and up to 15 inches inland.

In New Bern, along the coast, aerial photos show homes completely surrounded by water, with rescuers using inflatable boats to go house to house to remove people.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm as it moved further inland in the days ahead.

Portions of North Myrtle Beach saw flash flooding Friday afternoon with knee-deep standing water.

Authorities warned, too, of risks of mudslides and environmental disasters from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.


Two fins were spotted in the high water in Wilmington.

Some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges as high as 10ft in places.

The death toll is likely to rise.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

In Wilmington, near where the eye of the storm touched down, trees and power lines were felled and many windows were broken.

When all is said and done, Florence could dump 18 trillion gallons along its path, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue. Through Tuesday, 5 to 10 inches of rain, and isolated 15-inch amounts, are forecast to fall across central and western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.

The deadly storm made landfall on the east coast of the U.S. on Friday bringing with it "biblical" flooding on what's been described as a "thousand-year rain event".

More than 100 people were rescued and up to 75 more were awaiting rescue on Saturday morning, according to a town official.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted around 2 a.m. Friday.

"We moved all the furniture up in case the water comes in but the water seems to be staying at the edge of the driveway", he said, adding that if the wind picks up and the rain keeps coming, that could change.

Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighborhood during Florence's assault. Water rescues were also underway, although it was hard to know how many had occurred. But there are still untold numbers of people who are still in their homes - and they may need help soon.

Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs and were left her shaken. "I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me", she said.

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