"Please send help": Florence storm surge leaves 100 stranded in NC city

Reports said coastal streets in North Carolina were flooded and winds bent trees to the ground as the storm, which has been downgraded several times in recent days, weakened and is slower moving than before, prepared to make landfall Friday.

More than 125,000 customers were without power Friday as Hurricane Florence arrived in Wilmington with full force, bringing wind, storm surges and historic rain.

Its storm surge and the prospect of 1 to 3 feet of rain were considered an even bigger threat than its winds, which dropped way down from a terrifying 140 miles per hour - Category 4 - earlier in the week.

More than 60 people had to be evacuated from a motel at risk of collapse in Jacksonville.

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

There was a threat from tornadoes as Florence made landfall, the NHC said.

Swift water rescues are also underway in other parts of coastal North Carolina - Fairfield, Harbour, Adams Creek and Township 7 - but officials said some areas were too risky to reach, due to extreme flooding, strong winds and storm surges.

"And we're not done yet", Graham said, adding that some hard-hit areas could get an additional 15 to 20 inches because the storm was moving so slowly.

A gauge in the city's Neuse River near the town of Oriental indicated the water was 4 feet over flood stage and more than 5 feet above normal levels. He said all roads leading to his neighborhood were blocked by fallen trees.

Washington, Sep 14 (IANS) Tens of thousands of homes were without power and sea water was sloshing through the streets as Hurricane Florence began lashing the US East Coast on Friday, bringing powerful winds along with warnings of "life-threatening" storm surge and rainfall.

The now Category 1 storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 135 km/h by nightfall. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.

"Florence is moving toward the west-northwest near 6 miles per hour (9 km/h)". Other communities got well over a foot (30 centimetres).

George Weah comes back from retirement to play for Liberia in friendly
Liberia's President George Weah laughs during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 4, 2018.

The storm was centered about 35 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 35 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

Florence was seen as a major test for FEMA, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared previous year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths in the desperate months that followed.

Southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC...an additional 20 to 25 inches, with isolated storm totals of 30 to 40 inches. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay, he calculated.

The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of up to 21 miles per hour (34 kph) on Friday morning in Columbia.

Airlines cancelled more than 2,100 flights through Sunday.

North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centres in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities. "After the rain, it's flooding and river flooding as well".

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted around 2 a.m. We were forced to have conversations with these people and say hey, do you by chance live in a two-story home?

FEMA teams were employing boats in the rescues and were determining which cases were the most severe. "We've got some roof issues, parts of roof are coming off and we've got some fences coming down".

"[It's] very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and fears splintering trees will pummel her house.

It was initially unclear how many people ended up being rescued. And that's when people found themselves trapped in their homes as the water rose.

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