Hurricane Triggers Life-threatening Storm Surge

Jacob Harrelson and his wife Beth Harrelson install protective plywood on a local business in anticipation of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington N.C. on Wednesday

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Parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet (3 metres), he said.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hurricane Florence delivered a slow-motion assault to the coast of North Carolina early Friday, with catastrophic storm surge and torrential rains that will continue for days.

As of 5 a.m., Florence was 25 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from its center.

The National Hurricane Centre downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday, but warned it would dump as much as 70 to 100 centimetres of rain on the coasts of North and SC. Those numbers will only rise as the slow-moving storm hovers over the region through at least Saturday (Sept. 15), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

At 90 miles per hour, its wind speed was dipping but still risky.

The flooding soon spread into SC, swamping places like North Myrtle Beach, in a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.

"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.

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.

He added that around 20,000 people had taken refuge in 157 emergency shelters throughout the area.

Footage shows a pier and a beach in Nags Head, North Carolina, being hit with heavy surf as the storm rolls into the area.

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A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence.

"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.

These types of slow-moving storms - like Hurricane Harvey - can be particularly unsafe because of the rain and flooding they can bring.

On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air. "And since we're already on high ground, those two things together kind of help insulate us a little more than, I would say, others".

In Wilmington, near where the eye of the hurricane touched down, trees and power lines were down and many windows had been broken.

"Very eerie, the wind howling, the rain blowing sideways, debris flying", said Orsa, who lives nearby and feared splintering trees would pummel her house. Nationwide, airlines cancelled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.

Local authorities reported another death, in Pender County, when downed trees prevented emergency units from reaching a woman with a medical condition.

Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did.

"In an effort to proactively aid our customers, we are launching a community donation program, together with the Southeastern Grocers Gives Foundation, in support of the American Red Cross Disaster Relief to assist those impacted by Hurricane Florence", Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of Jacksonville, Fla. -based Southeastern Grocers, said in a statement on Friday.

More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centers were moved out of the storm's path.

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