Slow-Moving Florence Causing Major Flooding As It Swirls Over Carolinas

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The mother and her baby were killed in New Hanover County when a tree fell on their house, the governor said, while confirming another death in Lenoir County.

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

At least four people have died, but authorities fear the death toll with increase as the storm crawls westward Saturday across SC. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

Florence already has set a North Carolina record for rainfall totals, exceeding that of Hurricane Floyd, which struck in 1999 and caused 56 deaths.

Florence made landfall Friday as a Category 1 hurricane but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, even as it continued to wreak havoc along the East Coast, downing trees and power lines and forcing 20,000 people to flee to shelters.

The centre of the slow-moving storm, downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane after it came ashore Friday afternoon, was almost stalled over SC early Saturday, about 55 kilometres west of Myrtle Beach, moving west-southwest at just 8 km/h and scooping massive amounts of moisture from the sea.

The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

Cooper said many people in his state who may think the storm has missed them have not yet seen its actual threat to their regions, advising residents inland that "rivers will rise days after the rain has stopped", reaching their highest level days from now.

Florence was moving west-southwest at about 5 miles per hour (7 km/h), with its center located over eastern SC. "Life-threatening, catastrophic flash floods and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern to central Appalachians from western North Carolina into southwest Virginia through early next week".

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Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls westward across the Carolinas all weekend.

Two fins were spotted in the high water in Wilmington. Parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 3 metres, he said.

As of 1 p.m. ET, more than a foot of rain had fallen in many towns in southeastern North Carolina.

Florence is forecast to "drop nearly double" the volume of rain over the state compared to Floyd, tweeted Ryan Maue, meteorologist for weathermodels.com.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 10 inches.

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

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted around 2 a.m. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the authorities in New Bern said on Twitter.

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. On the waterfront the wind was blowing hard along the sand, whipping it into the air. But Outlaw said on Friday morning it's "not a bad idea to get in your auto and get west of I-95" if residents feel they can safely do so. Along the Neuse River, emergency responders pulled off some 200 rescues overnight and Friday morning, and about 150 people were still awaiting help, city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said.

"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington". Local media said she suffered a heart attack.

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