Florence now a tropical storm
Florence is now a tropical storm but will continue to threaten North and South Carolina with powerful winds and catastrophic freshwater flooding. Its top sustained winds have dropped to 70 mph, and it’s at a near standstill, moving west at just 3 mph.
Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from its center. Florence is producing tropical storm-force wind gusts in Florence, South Carolina, about 60 miles from the coast, the National Hurricane Center said.
Myrtle Beach weathers the storm
South Carolina’s most popular tourist destination is riding out Florence without major problems so far.
In North Myrtle Beach, rain has been falling nearly all day and tree branches and limbs are on some roads. The power is out on the main strip, but almost no vehicles are on the six-lane highway through the center of town other than police.
North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling says three-quarters of the area’s 37,000 electric customers are without power.
To the south, Myrtle Beach was faring better. Power outages were spotty, and Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea says no significant property damage has been reported.
No areas in South Carolina reported problems with surge from the ocean as winds continued from the land pushing water away.
5 deaths reported in North Carolina
At least five people were killed during the storm, authorities said. A mother and an infant were killed when a tree fell onto their home in Wilmington on Friday. The father was injured and transported to a nearby hospital, The Wilmington Police Department said.
Images showed firefighters responding to the scene and kneeling to pray. The firefighters were shaken up by what they witnessed at the scene, CBS affiliate WWAYreports.
Two people were killed in Kinston as a result of the hurricane, Roger Dail of Lenoir County Emergency Services. A 78-year-old male was electrocuted at a residence Friday morning when he attempted to connect two extension cords outside in the rain, Dail said. His body was discovered by family members.
The body of a 77-year-old male was discovered by his family Friday morning at his residence. His death is believed to be caused by being blown down by the wind as he checked on his hunting dogs, Dail said.
Another death was reported in Pender County. Emergency crews were using a front-end loader to clear a path to reach to a woman having a heart attack at the height of the storm, Pender County spokesperson Tammy Proctor said. However, operations were stopped when a tree branch fell and shattered the windshield of their front-end loader. They were unable to reach her in time, Proctor said.
Authorities said one person was killed while plugging in a generator in Lenoir County.
“Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “Hurricane Florence is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days. Be extremely careful and stay alert.”
Trump to visit areas affected by hurricane
President Trump is preparing to travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence next week. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Mr. Trump will travel to the region “early to middle of next week.”
She said his trip will take place “once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts.”
Aides said Mr. Trump has been monitoring the massive storm from the White House
North Carolina flooding expected to worsen
The National Weather Service says 14 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen north of Swansboro, North Carolina, and it’s only going to get worse. Weather Prediction Center senior forecaster David Roth said catastrophic flash flooding is expected to continue to worsen Friday.
Roth said the heavy rainfall for southeast North Carolina is only one-third to one-quarter the way over.
“Plenty of heavy rain remains in the future for this region,” Roth wrote in the weather center’s rain forecast discussion.
More than 2,100 flights grounded
Airlines have canceled more than 2,100 U.S. flights from the storm’s approach on Wednesday through Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware. The region’s two largest airports, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, had more than 200 cancellations on Friday.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says Charleston International Airport in South Carolina isn’t expected to reopen until Monday night. Wilmington International in North Carolina expects to reopen at noon Saturday.
Rainfall totals could be staggering
Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at weathermodels.com, calculates that Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain in seven days over the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.
That doesn’t quite measure up to the 25 trillion gallons Harvey dropped on Texas and Louisiana last year. Maue said Harvey stalled longer and stayed closer to the coast, which enabled it to keep sucking moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
Still, 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay. It’s enough to cover the entire state of Texas with nearly four inches of water. That much rain is 2.4 trillion cubic feet. It’s enough to cover Manhattan with nearly 3,800 feet of water, more than twice as high as the island’s tallest building.
North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough rain to cover the Tar Heel state in about 10 inches of water. Maue calculates that 34 million people will get at least 3 inches, with more than 5.7 million getting at least a foot and about 1.5 million getting 20 inches or more.
Feds suspend immigration arrests
Homeland Security officials say they won’t do any active enforcement during evacuations or in shelters during Hurricane Florence, and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are focused on the preservation of life and safety.
The Trump administration has stepped up arrests of people living in the country illegally, but during this storm they say they won’t enforce immigration laws unless there’s a serious public safety threat. Immigration officers have been dispatched to help with response and recovery as Florence lashes North and South Carolina with life-threatening winds, rain and floods.
Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says saving lives is the priority, and anyone fearing for their safety should call 911 for help. Federal officials say they don’t want people to fear going to shelters.