Hurricane Florence has set a new state rainfall record for North Carolina, with much more water expected. Florence made landfall over North Carolina on Friday morning, bringing winds, 'life-threatening' storm surge, and rain. A mother and baby were killed by a tree.
Hurricane Florence is now a tropical storm, but its winds and heavy rain are still battering the Carolinas. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned in a briefing Saturday morning that more people in the state are in danger now than when Florence made landfall there on Friday.
"The rainfall is epic and will continue to be," Cooper said.
The storm has killed at least nine people in North Carolina.
A mother and baby died when a tree crashed into their home, the Wilmington Police Department said on Twitter Friday afternoon. A 78-year-old man was killed while trying to connect extension cords outside in the rain, ABC News reported, citing Lenoir County Emergency Services Director Roger Dail. And a man was blown away by strong winds while outside checking on his dogs. The man's family found his body Friday morning, according to Dail.
The storm was also implicated in the death of a woman who suffered a heart attack, since emergency crews couldn't reach her due to a fallen tree, as The Wall Street Journal reported.
The center of the storm was hovering over eastern South Carolina Saturday morning, after making landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday.
Winds up to 50 mph are still lashing the Carolinas, and heavy rainfall is causing "catastrophic flooding," according to the National Hurricane Center. Homes have flooded and trees crashed through rooftops.
As of Saturday morning, the storm had dumped over 30 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina. Swansboro, a town near North Carolina's coast, received 30.58 inches of rainfall as of Saturday morning, setting a record for tropical storm-associated rainfall in the state, meteorologist David Roth said.
The deluge is not even close to over — parts of North Carolina are set to receive another 15 inches of rain in the coming days, according to The National Weather Service. That means the storm could easily drop 40 inches of rain in some spots.
"Particularly along the Sandhills to Charlotte, we’re going to have areas flood that have never flooded before," Gov. Cooper warned on Saturday. "We just don’t want people to think this is over because it’s not. It’s not anywhere."
In total, Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain over North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Maryland before the storm is over. That's enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay or to cover the state of Texas in 4 inches.
The storm was moving very slowly as of Saturday morning — only 2 mph — so it's expected to continue affecting the Carolinas for days. Gov. Cooper warned that landslides could begin in mountain areas starting Saturday night.
Nearly 1 million power outages have been reported in North and South Carolina, and state and local officials expect that number to increase. Duke Energy, a local energy provider, warned on Saturday that power restoration could take weeks — not days —in the hardest hit areas.
Over 100 people remain trapped in New Bern, a town on the Neuse River which has been hit hard by rain and flooding. "Nobody expected this," a rescued resident, Tom Ballance, told The Weather Channel. "We were fools."
An emergency curfew remains in place in New Bern as rescuers continue to try and access trapped people.
The storm was giant when it made landfall: hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 80 miles, and tropical-storm-force winds extended nearly 200 miles from the storm's center.
"Landfall of a hurricane is never the end of the event," Weather Channel meteorologist and hurricane expert Rick Knabb said on Friday. "Slow-moving Florence is not even close to being done with the coast."
These images, recorded by a camera maintained by the HurricaneTracker.com website in New Bern, North Carolina, showed the dramatic progress of flooding on Thursday and Friday.
Other photos and videos shared on social media also showed dangerous conditions in North Carolina.
Although Florence's wind speed means it is now a tropical storm, the NHC has consistently warned that the storm is no less dangerous because the wind speed is lower. The biggest threats come from the rain and floods.
Branches crashed into this home (below) in Wilmington, North Carolina while three people were inside. One man there was critically injured and taken away on a stretcher.
The wet and windy conditions were less of a problem for this pair of dolphins seen swimming nearby.
But local deer were forced to swim through the floodwater as well.
This timelapse shows how much rain fell in just a four-hour period in the coastal city of Oriental, North Carolina.
Some of the most extreme conditions have been observed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and on riverfront cities that were were hit hard by storm surge. A federal rain gauge in Emerald Isle, a town on a sandbank just north of Wilmington, recorded 6.6 feet of flood water.
Gov. Cooper has dispatched over 2,800 National Guard soldiers in North Carolina.
"We know this massive storm will cause incredible damage" he said on Thursday. "Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience."
On Friday morning, rescue workers loaded boats and trucks in the North Carolina river town of James City, near New Bern, and started evacuating people and their pets.
Gov. Cooper warned people not to get in their cars if they see water on the street. Those attempting to drive on flooded or closed roads put themselves in danger and interfere with emergency response and rescue efforts, he said. Plus, more and more roads are being closed as the storm continues — parts of I-40 and I-95 have been closed, along with at least 60 other primary roads.
"Don’t drive through water no matter how confident you feel or how much you want to get out of the house. Roads are closed in many places and more are closing even as we speak," he said.
For those whose homes are being flooded, the National Weather Service says to move up to higher floors in your house and take your phone and supplies. Stay away from attics and crawl spaces where you could get trapped. If the water rises too high to stay inside, get to the roof.
Governors of five states declared states of emergency ahead of the storm: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland. Mandatory evacuation orders were in place in coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, affecting a total of about 1.7 million people, according to the Associated Press.
In North Carolina, more than 12,000 people who've fled the storm are staying dry at 126 shelters located across the state.
Sinéad Baker, Bryan Logan, Dana Varinsky, and Jeremy Berke contributed reporting.