Race to rescue people stranded in U.S. hurricane

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.

The centre of the hurricane made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina, bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and 90mph winds.

"With this storm, it's a (category 1) but the storm surge and the flooding is going to be that of a category 4", says CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray.

The port city of Wilmington woke Friday to the sound of exploding electrical transformers with strong gusts throwing street signs and other debris as well as water in all directions, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

The video from Thursday night shows a BP gas station canopy collapse under the strength of the storm in Topsail Beach. "The longer you have this hurricane wind flow, the longer you push that water well inland", he said.

On Friday afternoon, Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw explained to NPR's All Things Considered that people stayed in their homes, despite evacuation orders, because storms that were predicted to be awful in the past, just didn't happen.

In the besieged city of New Bern, rescuers had plucked more than 200 people from rising waters by midmorning Friday, but about 150 more had to wait as conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet, officials said. One team from Maryland helped with about 40 rescues in New Bern starting Thursday, member Mitchell Rusland said.

Tropical Storm Florence is still posing life-threatening surges in portions of North and SC.

It had estimated maximum wind speeds of 90 miles per hour (150 km/h), putting it just under the threshold of a "major" hurricane.

Stream gauges across the region showed water levels rising steadily, with forecasts calling for rivers to crest Sunday and Monday at or near record levels: The Little River, the Cape Fear, the Lumber, the Neuse, the Waccamaw and the Pee Dee were all projected to burst their banks, possibly flooding nearby communities.

Still, some residents ignored calls to evacuate.

"I can not overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren't watching for them, you are risking your life", Gov. Roy Cooper said. "Catastrophic effects will be felt".

Hurricane Helene, now a category 3 storm in the mid-Atlantic, is predicted to veer toward Europe, while tropical storm Isaac is expected to be reclassified as a hurricane as it threatens the western Caribbean this weekend.

"We're here even though are hearts are in North Carolina". "I'm going to get killed on the road, '" Bradley said.

Myrtle Beach, a SC beach resort, was deserted with empty streets, boarded up storefronts and very little traffic.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that up to 3 million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

Not everybody was heeding orders to evacuate, however. North Carolina has 24 functioning high hazard dams near the coast. One was electrocuted while hooking up a generator and the other while checking on his dogs outside, emergency officials said. "I'm not leaving him here". "I'm in chest deep water, I need help, I need you to rescue me", she says.

"I about jumped out of my skin", he said in a phone interview Friday morning.

Perched on his porch, carpenter Tony Albright was calmly waiting for Florence's arrival, beer in hand.

"Just dozens of calls just saying, 'the water is coming in the house, the water is now over the hood of my auto".

  • Joey Payne