Hurricane Florence starts flooding parts of the Carolinas

The 11 p.m. ET National Hurricane Center update warned of "catastrophic freshwater flooding" in parts of North and SC, and of continuing life-threatening storm surges and strong winds overnight as Florence moves slowly west-southwestward over extreme eastern SC.

As of Friday afternoon Australian time, Florence was centred about 55 kilometres east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

North Carolina activated 2,800 National Guard personnel, and SC called up 2,100 of its National Guard soldiers to be ready to aid in recovery efforts once the storm has passed. By midnight, his rain gauge showed that he'd gotten 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain since midafternoon. The storm is huge, the National Hurricane Center says, and its worst effects will reach "a large area regardless of exactly where the center of Florence moves".

Florence is about 644 kilometres wide and it's winds have dropped from a peak of 225 km/h to 165 km/h, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a Category 2.

Wednesday, keen-eyed WFMY staffers noticed there were dozens of Facebook events with ill-advised but hilarious ways to beat the storm, from suggesting we yell "Fake News!" at the hurricane to playing our saxophones in that general direction.

But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina border and makes its way slowly inland.

The storm has claimed at least five lives, two of them in Wilmington, NC. Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers). Total inundation is likely in portions of eastern and southeastern North Carolina and perhaps the upper part of the SC coast with a storm surge in excess of 10 feet in some areas.

Bloomberg via Getty Images Shoppers wait in line to be served at the pharmacy of a Walmart Inc. store ahead of Hurricane Florence in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In North Carolina, Florence is expected to dump up to 40 inches of rain and storm surge will be high. The vivid presentation - powered by the Unreal Engine, most commonly used in video games - seems likely to serve as a more pressing demonstration of the storm's threat than a mere written warning, and that's vitally important for folks in impacted areas.

Brock, meanwhile, said the surges "are going to be a major problem way up into the streams and tributaries that come out of sound areas".

When Florence hit as a Category 1 hurricane early Friday, the community's rivers swelled, tides crested and the rain wouldn't stop. "And I can not stress enough the importance of adhering to the governor's orders for mandatory evacuation". "You rock! We couldn't have done it without you!" the city tweeted on Saturday.

Her friend Kate is refusing to evacuate as well because of "the idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more". Montgomery said calling the number a few times will not make a difference. Leaders of the states in the path of the storm have warned people all week to evacuate the most susceptible areas.

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.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

"We need to stay vigilant", said Scott Rogers, deputy chief of Nash County Emergency Services. "We're fully prepared. Food, medical, everything you can imagine, we are ready".

  • Joey Payne