Mother and Infant Among First Reported Fatalities as Hurricane Florence Makes Landfall

Alexander Gerst  European Space Agency

Alexander Gerst European Space Agency

WILMINGTON, North Carolina - Hurricane "Florence" lumbered ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour (145 kph) winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, ripping apart buildings and knocking out power to a half-million homes and businesses as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.

Police in Wilmington, North Carolina, near where the hurricane made landfall, said a mother and her infant were killed when a tree fell on their house. The child's father was injured and taken to a hospital. No other information was given.

The centre of the hurricane's eye came ashore at about 7:15am (local time) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 150kph, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said. The hurricane's storm surge - the wall of water it pushed in from the Atlantic - "overwhelmed" the town of New Bern at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.

Parts of North and SC were forecast to get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 metre).

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", he said.

Florence was one of two major storms threatening millions of people on opposite sides of the world.

Keith Acre of North Carolina's Department of Emergency Management said: "This has been a really large evacuation and sheltering operation, probably the largest we've done, so that has not been an east lift".

"You need to be prepared to be without power for weeks", Holding said, pointing out that Hurricane Fran knocked out power for two weeks and Hurricane Matthew left him without power for five days.

A building is seen through heavy rain from Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018.

On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air, and at least 525,000 homes and businesses were without power, almost all of them in North Carolina.

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

More than 430,000 people in North and SC are without power, and water is rising along the coast, where people in some towns have experienced dramatic rescues due to the towering storm surge.

Hurricane Florence, weakened but still risky, has crashed into the Carolinas on Friday as a giant, slow-moving storm that stranded residents with floodwaters and swamped part of the town of New Bern at the beginning of what could be a days-long deluge.

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