Florence downgraded to tropical storm, but will continue to threaten Carolinas

NASA video shows Hurricane Florence from space as it makes landfall

NASA video shows Hurricane Florence from space as it makes landfall

Hurricane Florence smashed into the US East Coast on Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters.

"Currently ~150 awaiting rescue in New Bern", City Hall said on Twitter.

CNN reported that more than 620,000 customers did not have power in the Carolinas by Friday morning, and by the afternoon Duke Energy announced that it expected as many as 3 million outages, which could take weeks to restore.

The Wilmington Police Department said Friday that the two were killed when a tree fell on their house.

"The National Hurricane Center said Florence is moving very slowly to the west at only 6 miles an hour, then is expected to turn to the southwest, increasing the threat for historic storm surge and catastrophic flooding to coastline areas and inland cities in North Carolina and SC".

At 5 p.m., Florence was centered about 50 miles (75 kilometers) west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 25 miles (45 kilometers) northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", he said. "It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave".

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

"Heavy rain has been occurring in and around Oriental, North Carolina, where 20.37 inches of rainfall has been measured thus far", the National Hurricane Center said in an update.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

"The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation and it's getting worse", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said, calling Florence a "thousand-year rain event".

The NHC said hurricane-force winds extended outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 195 miles out.

Amanda Tesch, a spokesperson for the Carteret County Emergency Services, said that earlier reports from her office that the death toll has been raised were never correct.

Shaken after seeing waves crashing in the Neuse River just outside his house in the town of New Bern, hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.

Dozens have already been rescued in New Bern.

More than 30 inches of rain have fallen in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.

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