A mother and her eight-month-old baby are among five people to have died as Tropical Storm Florence continues to batter North Carolina, with 18 trillion gallons of rain expected to fall in what the state’s governor called a ‘thousand-year’ event.
Lesha Murphy-Johnson and her baby Adam were trapped inside their home in Wilmington after a tree fell onto the roof at around 9.30am on Friday. Firefighters frantically tried to lift the tree so they could escape, but were unable to do so.
The baby’s father, Lawrence, was rescued and taken into an ambulance but police declared the mother and baby dead at 2.30pm. National Guard were then called in to remove the shattered tree. Murphy-Johnson’s death was confirmed to DailyMail.com by her ex-husband who was shown her ID by authorities and asked to identify her.
Separately, a woman died of a heart attack in Hampstead after medics were unable to reach her, officials announced on Friday afternoon.
In Kinston, two additional fatalities were reported. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted while trying to connect a generator extension cord in the rain, and a 77-year-old man was found dead outside of his home, possibly after having been blown over by the wind while checking on his dogs, officials said.
As of 5pm, Florence had been downgraded to a tropical storm with top sustained winds of 70mph, though the top inland gust recorded on Friday reached 105mph. Morehead City has seen the most rainfall so far, with 19.4 inches recorded since 2pm on Thursday.
The storm is currently stalled over south-eastern North Carolina, but is expected to drift further inland across the Carolinas over the weekend before turning north along the Appalachian Mountains early next week.
Beyond Friday’s 11-feet storm surges and flash floods stands days more destruction and human suffering, warned North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. ‘The sun rose this morning on an extremely dangerous situation and it’s getting worse,’ he told a press conference on Friday morning, branding the storm a ‘thousand-year rain event.’
The dire warnings were echoed by Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous, who told ABC News: ‘I see a biblical proportion flood event that’s going to occur. I see the beach communities being inundated with water and destruction that will be pretty, pretty epic in nature.’
It came after reports of looting in the town, with criminals taking advantage of abandoned homes, shops and homes. Dashaun Smith, 25, and Brandon Bellamy, 30, were charged with breaking into Tommy’s Mini Mart in Leland, according to WWAY News. Devin Harris, 21, and Justice Harris, 18, were charged with breaking and entering into a motor vehicle, the site reported.
Lesha Murphy-Johnson and her baby Adam were trapped inside their home in Wilmington after a tree fell onto the roof at around 9.30am (ET). Their deaths were the first confirmed by authorities that were related to Hurricane Florence
A tree that fell on a house, killing Murphy-Johnson and her baby Adam, is seen during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington
Baby Adam’s father (above) was also in the house when the tree fell. Rescue workers were able to free him and taken him to hospital in an ambulance, but the child and mother both perished
In New Bern, a rescue team from the North Carolina National Guard 1/120th battalion evacuates a family as the rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence threatens their home on Friday
National Guardsmen Sgt. Matt Locke (left) and Sgt. Nick Muhar (right) evacuate a family from flooding in New Bern
Rescue team member Sgt. Nick Muhar, from the North Carolina National Guard 1/120th battalion, evacuates a young child as the rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence threatens his home in New Bern
Rescuers from the North Carolina National Guard 1/120th battalion evacuate an elderly woman from her New Bern apartment
Wilmington resident Greg Morter pauses while surveying damage after a large oak fell on his home and a neighbor’s house
Tahrike Shaw sings, prays and dances as he walks along the sidewalk as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Wilmington
People sit at a bar that has no power and drink during a “Hurricane Party” as Hurricane Florence comes ashore on Wilmington
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Wilmington Fire Department chief Steve Mason said: ‘The complexity of the rescue was technical as their were numerous (tree) limbs. Due to the shear size of tree, you could not quickly cut with a chainsaw.
‘The victims were not only pinned under the tree but parts of the roof. It required a tremendous amount of heavy lift, airbags and saws to get those folks out. It was very difficult and required specialized equipment.’
Water levels at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration government tide gauge reached 3.6 ft above typical high tide today, breaking a record set by Hurricane Matthew in 2016
New Hanover County Sheriff Edward J. McMahon was keen to emphasize how dangerous the area had become: ‘It is absolutely dangerous out there, you cannot see some of the power lines. I have witnessed people driving over the lines.
‘Please it is very dangerous out there. We’ve had one deputy sustain a head injury out there and had to take him to hospital.
‘If you have left we are going to do everything we can to keep all your property safe and free from looters. If you’ve stayed then just stay put. We are working very hard to keep everyone safe.’
New Hanover County manager Chris Coudriet added: ‘The eye wall has moved through the area. It continues to rain. The storm surge and inland flooding will continue to be an issue in our community.
This satellite map, captured on Friday at 8am (ET) shows Florence making landfall on the east coast. The outline of the shoreline has been drawn over the image to show the storm’s location
In the same town, these four men were arrested and charged on suspicion of looting. Dashaun Smith, 25, and Brandon Bellamy, 30, (top) were charged with breaking into Tommy’s Mini Mart in Leland. Devin Harris, 21, and Justice Harris, 18, (bottom) were charged with breaking and entering into a motor vehicle
High waters flood Market and Water Streets as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday
A man sits on a park bench in a flooded park as the Cape Fear River rises above its usual height in Wilmington, North Carolina
A man crosses a flooded street in downtown Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday
Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department in James City, North Carolina and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a boat to rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence on Friday
In Fairfield Harbour, members of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4 from Oakland, California, and soldiers from the North Carolina National Guard 105th Military Police Battalion from Asheville search homes for evacuees on Friday
‘The worst of the storm has not yet passed. We are still concerned about storm surge along our ocean front and in some of our inland estuaries as the backside of this storm continues to bring storm surge in. We are expecting 20 inches or less of rain in New Hanover County.’
Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at 7.15am. At least 26,000 people sought refuge in shelters in the state and 625,000 homes and businesses were reported to be without power.
There were three inches of rain falling every hour shortly after the storm hit land and 80mph winds sparking an 11-foot storm surge.
Over seven days, 18 trillion gallons of rain is expected to fall across the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. The wind speed has dropped slightly from 90mph when it made landfall to 75mph as of 4pm ET.
President Donald Trump is preparing to travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence early next week, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Aides say Trump has been monitoring the massive storm from the White House, and he has taken to Twitter to encourage those in its path to listen to their local authorities for how best to remain safe.
A before and after image of a scene in New Bern on Thursday shows the violent impacts of the storm, which deluged the area with flood waters
A before and after image of a scene in New Bern. Rescue teams were also working to free around 150 people trapped in homes in New Bern
Firefighters frantically tried to lift the tree (pictured) that trapped a mother and her baby in a Wilmington home. The pair died before they could be rescued while the baby’s father, Lawrence, escaped
Rescue workers pray on the quiet residential street in Wilmington, North Carolina, where the mother and baby died on Friday
The deaths Lesha Murphy-Johnson and her baby Adam were two of the first confirmed fatalities during Hurricane Florence. Pictured: Firefighters and paramedics pray after the rescue attempt
The house where the mother and son were killed has now been sealed off with police tape. Pictured: A body is removed from the property on Friday afternoon
Firefighters were unable to remove the tree from the house in Wilmington on Friday and had to call in the National Guard (pictured)
More than 60 people including children had to be pulled from a collapsing motel in Jacksonville at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were waiting to be rescued.
The hurricane knocked a basketball-sized hole in the wall of the Triangle Motor Inn causing cinder blocks to crumble and the roof to fall down – while residents were still in their rooms. Fire crews had to force their way in and evacuate the guests to a shelter. None were hurt.
Rescue teams were also working to free around 150 to 200 people trapped in homes in New Bern as city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts warned that the storm surge will increase further as Florence passes over the area.
Some 150 to 200 people have already been rescued after the nearby Neuse River rose by 10 feet high since bursting its banks on Thursday.
The city warned that people ‘may need to move up to the second story’ but told them to stay put as ‘we are coming to get you.’ Some 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.
In the besieged North Carolina city of New Bern alone, rescuers by midmorning Friday had plucked more than 200 people from rising waters, but about 150 more had to wait as conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet, officials said.
By midday Friday, airlines had canceled more than 2,100 U.S. flights from the storm’s approach on Wednesday through Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware.
The region’s two largest airports, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, had more than 200 cancellations on Friday. That’s about half the flights in Raleigh and one in eight at Charlotte.
Volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team help rescue three children from their flooded home in James City on Friday
The volunteers moved the James City children to safety on Friday along a flooded highway. Hundreds of other people have had to call for emergency rescues in the area, officials said
Rescue workers pass the dog back to her owner after they were both rescued from their flooded James City property on Friday
Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a boat to rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home in James City on Friday
Firefighters use a boat to rescue three people from their flooded home during the Hurricane Florence in New Bern on Friday
The members of Township No. 7 Fire Department and the civilian volunteers had a busy night on Thursday after the hurricane hit the area
Residents in this North Carolina town woke up on Friday morning to find a tree had fallen on the roof of a house. The storm is expected to cause $170 billion worth of damage, according to one prediction
Residents look at downed trees as Hurricane Florence passes over Wilmington, North Carolina, on Friday. Officials are warning the hurricane could become even worse over the weekend
The awning of a BP gas station in Top Sall, North Carolina, is blown off as Hurricane Florence makes landfall on Thursday night
Even before Florence hit land, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported ‘life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds’ along the coast of the Carolinas leaving coastal streets inundated with ocean water.
Like an out of control freight train, Florence entered into Wilmington, a port city of 120,000 people on the North Carolina coast, and started pummeling the city.
The city was plunged into darkness after losing its power grid shortly after 5am during some of the fiercest wind bursts.
Damages are starting to appear as large swaths of the roof of Hotel Ballast, a downtown tourism staple, are being peeled off one by one and sucked out into the sky.
The Cape Fear River, which usually lazies from east to west through the city’s historic district, has been transformed into rapids.
As the day rose on Wilmington, residents discovered extensive damages. There are thousands of trees down in the city’s historic district. Most streets are unpassable as uprooted large oak trees lie across the road.
At this point, the entire city is without electricity as electric lines have been cut off by falling trees and ripped up gutters from homes litter the streets.
Footage from television stations and social media showed raging waters hitting piers and jettys and rushing across coastal roads in seaside communities, including Topsail Beach, north of Wilmington, where storm surge waters damaged beachfront homes
Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The hurricane could cause $170 billion of property damage, according to one prediction.
Swollen floodwaters surround a house as Hurricane Florence hits Swansboro on Friday. Most of the homes had already been evacuated and boarded up
People drive an ATV through floodwaters on the riverwalk in Wilmington on Friday. The clean-up after Florence will last months and cost billions of dollars
A waves flows past a flooded house in Swansboro, where the land began to resemble the sea after the hurricane had passed on Friday
A tractor moves along a flooded road on the North Carolina coast, which was first hit by the storm at around 7.30am on Friday
Trees bend in the heavy winds as they are enveloped by surging waters after Hurricane Florence hit Swansboro in North Carolina on Friday
People were urged to avoid going out in their vehicles in Swansboro in North Carolina (pictured on Friday) over fears they could be swept away
A resident in New Bern, North Carolina, filmed the inside of their flooded home showing ocean water lapping at their feet as Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday
Mitchell Floor, left, holds a flashlight as Comfort Suites general manager Beth Bratz, center, and employee Dee Branch go to make coffee as Hurricane Florence rages in Wilmington Friday. 620,000 homes and businesses were reported to be without power as the outer band of the storm approached
Forecasters say ‘catastrophic’ freshwater flooding is expected over parts of the Carolinas.
But that, combined with the storm’s slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.
‘The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come,’ he said. ‘Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience.’
Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland.
Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.
Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 mph (225 kph), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.
This graph shows wind speeds in mph at 9am (ET), from the eye of Hurricane Florence near the North Carolina coast to further inland
A map from the National Hurricane center shows the probable path of Hurricane Florence from Friday to Wednesday next week
Wind-whipped waves lash the coast at Wilmington, North Carolina, on Friday. Nearly all residents had evacuated following warnings from officials
Photos show the South Carolina National Guard readying for the storm. Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 mph (225 kph), the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night
Forecasters say ‘catastrophic’ freshwater flooding is expected over parts of the Carolinas. Disaster relief teams are seen above
Michael Nelson uses a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River burst its banks on Thursday
Rescuers head out into floodwaters in New Bern, North Carolina on Thursday night as the area starts to feel the full wrath of the storm
Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital in Jacksonville has a full hallway dedicated for animals of the staff working during Hurricane Florence. It is pictured on Friday
Flamingos are evacuated as a part of Storm Florence preparations at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in South Carolina
Dolphins were spotted swimming close to the shore in Wilmington, North Carolina, during the storm on Friday
Cooper requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called ‘historic major damage’ across the state.
Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it’s unclear how many did.
The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.
The top counties affected were Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender. Officials fear power losses could affect up to three million people.
In South Carolina, more than 400,000 people have evacuated the state’s coast and more than 4,000 people have taken refuge in shelters, officials said.
Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
Cooper previously warned: ‘Don’t relax, don’t get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Today the threat becomes a reality.’
A wind-damaged roof of the house in the town of Wilson on Friday morning after the hurricane passed over the previous night
A damaged awning at a restaurant in Myrtle Beach on Friday morning after heavy winds ravished the town during Hurricane Florence
Roads and verges in New Bern were strewn with damage trees on Friday morning after they were ripped from the ground by high winds
Several parts of North Carolina lost power after trees fell on power lines. Pictured is damaged vegetation in New Bern on Friday
This tree in Wilmington was left splayed across a road on Friday morning, blocking traffic, after Hurricane Florence ravaged the area the previous night
Wilmington residents had to walk around the uprooted tree on Friday as they waited for workers to come and cut it up
Part of the roof of Tidewater Brewing Co. lies on the ground in Wilmington on Friday morning. Owner Ethan Hall arrived later with team to inspect the damage
Flood waters rage inside the living room of a house in Belhaven, North Carolina, in a photo obtained from social media on Friday
Children sit and play games in a hotel lobby in Wilmington that has lost its power on Friday after damage to infrastructure caused by high winds
Prisoners were affected, too. North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.
At Frying Pan Tower, an observation post 32 miles off of the coast of North Carolina, a live video feed showed the storm’s 100mph sustained winds ripping an American flag to shreds.
Police have suspended their services in Morehead City and other coastal cities, warning any residents who remain in the evacuation zone that they will be without emergency services until the storm passes.
The storm surge was expected to reach far inland along North Carolina’s flat coastal plain.
‘Storm surge is not just an ‘ocean’ problem tonight. Significant surge is expected to occur in the NC inlets and rivers, some areas in excess of 9 feet!’ the National Weather Service said in a tweet.
At Frying Pan Tower, an observation post 32 miles off of the coast of North Carolina, a live video feed showed the Category 2 storm’s 100mph sustained winds ripping an American flag to shreds on Thursday
Portions of a boat dock and boardwalk were destroyed by powerful wind and waves in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, on Thursday
Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach as Hurricane Florence approaches the area on Thursday
Huge waves lashed the beaches of North Carolina on Thursday as the hurricane rolling in bringing heavy rain and dangerous winds
Early storm surges in New Bern caused the Neuse River to flood its banks on Thursday, nearly sixteen hours before Florence arrived
A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro on Thursday
A pick-up truck pulls a trailer along a rainy road in Washington, North Carolina, nearly 16 hours before the hurricane struck the area
A truck drives through deep water after the Neuse River flooded the street in River Bend on Thursday. Officials in some areas urged people not to go out in their car as they could be swept away
A sign warns people away from Union Point Park after it was flooded by the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina
The Hotel Ballast on the Cape Fear River was starting to show signs of structural damage (see ceiling) during the hurricane on Friday
In Wilmington, before it took a direct hit from Florence, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.
‘We’re a little worried about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now,’ said Linda Smith, 67, a retired nonprofit director. ‘I am frightened about what’s coming. We just want prayers from everyone.’
Near the beach in Wilmington, a Waffle House restaurant, part of a chain with a reputation for staying open during disasters, had no plans to close, even if power is lost. It had long lines on Thursday.
In the tiny community of Sea Breeze near Wilmington, Roslyn Fleming, 56, made a video of the inlet where her granddaughter was baptized because ‘I just don’t think a lot of this is going to be here’ later.
Will Epperson, a 36-year-old golf course assistant superintendent, said he and his wife had planned to ride out the storm at their home in Hampstead, North Carolina, but reconsidered due to its ferocity. Instead, they drove 150 miles inland to his mother’s house in Durham.
‘The anxiety level has dropped substantially,’ Epperson said. ‘I’ve never been one to leave for a storm but this one kind of had me spooked.’
In a flash bulletin at 11pm on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said that Florence was 50 miles south of Morehead City, North Carolina, and 60 miles southeast of Wilmington.
A child sits on a mattress at a Hurricane Florence evacuation shelter on Thursday at Conway High School in Conway, South Carolina
Avair Vereen (left, with her fiance and one of her seven children) and her family took shelter at an evacuation shelter at Conway High School on Thursday. ‘We live in a mobile home so we were just like ‘No way.’ If we lose the house, oh well, we can get housing. But we can’t replace us so we decided to come here’
An American Red Cross aid worker walks through the cafeteria at Conway High School which is being used as a Hurricane Florence evacuation shelter on Thursday
Shianne Coleman (left) and Austin Gremmel walk in flooded streets as the Neuse River begins to flood its banks in New Bern, North Carolina, on Thursday
Linda Stephens checks out the weather as the force of Hurricane Florence is beginning to be felt on Friday in Myrtle Beach
Joyce Lilly, Marshall McNeil and Holly Tindall sit on the porch of their home in Myrtle Beach on Friday as they watch high winds caused by Hurricane Florence
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 90mph and was moving northwest at six miles per hour.
A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves nearly 30 feet high as Florence churned toward shore.
As the storm has slowed upon approach, official landfall – when the eye of the storm reaches the shore – is forecast to occur sometime overnight on Friday.
Winds and rain were arriving later in South Carolina, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded on Thursday. Heavy rainfall began after dark.
By Thursday night, the window to evacuate much of the North Carolina coast had closed, with officials saying that anyone who had not moved inland would have to shelter in place.
Forecasters said that given the storm’s size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.
Men pack their belongings after evacuating their house in New Bern, North Carolina after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded their street during Hurricane Florence on Thursday
Residents rush to escape as the water rises in New Bern on Thursday after storm surges pushed the Neuse River over its bank
Residents wade through deep floodwater to retrieve belongings from the Trent Court public housing apartments after the Neuse River went over its banks during in New Bern on Thursday
Russ Lewis looks for shells at Myrtle Beach, where conditions were fairly calm before the approach of Florence on Friday morning
Water from Neuse River starts flooding houses on Thursday as the Hurricane Florence comes ashore in New Bern, North Carolina
As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are ‘supplied and ready,’ and he disputed the official conclusion that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.
‘This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,’ Trump wrote.
‘If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!’
Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.
Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City. Some of the few people still left in Nags Head on the Outer Banks took photos of angry waves topped with white froth.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
‘It truly is really about the whole size of this storm,’ National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said. ‘The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact – and we have that.’
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year.
HURRICANE FLORENCE IN NUMBERS
The outer bands of wind and rain from a weakened but still deadly Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday.
As the monster storm moves in for an extended stay, here is a breakdown by numbers:
- Florence clocked 90 mph winds on Thursday after it was downgraded to a Category 1
- The storm was already generating 83-foot waves at sea on Wednesday
- Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet were also forecast in some areas
- Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina
- Potentially 10 trillion gallons of rain is expected in southern states in the next week
- An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory
- Up to 1.7 million people were ordered to evacuated ahead of the hurricane
‘On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m probably a 7’ in terms of worry, she said. ‘Because it’s Mother Nature. You can’t predict.’
Forecasters’ European climate model is predicting 2 trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com. That’s enough water to fill the Empire State Building nearly 40,000 times.
More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.
Among those to shrug off evacuation orders in South Carolina was legendary singer Jimmy Buffet, who led a score of adrenaline-junkies waiting for the storm to hit as he headed to Folly Beach to surf the surges.
Posing with a surfboard and a thumbs-up the 71-year-old musician quoted his own lyrics writing: ‘I ain’t afraid of dying, I got no need to explain, I feel like going surfing in a hurricane.’
Homeless after losing her job at Walmart three months ago, 25-year-old Brittany Jones went to a storm shelter at a high school near Raleigh. She said a hurricane has a way of bringing everyone to the same level.
‘It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how many generators you have if you can’t get gas,’ she said. ‘Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring everyone together. A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight.’
Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its four million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm’s aftermath, it said.
Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm. But previous research has shown that the strongest hurricanes are getting wetter, more intense and intensifying faster because of human-caused climate change.
Florence’s weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who worried that the storm could still be deadly.
Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that was later downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a Wilmington hotel several miles inland.
‘Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated,’ said Fisher, 74. ‘I’ve got four cats inside the house. If I can’t get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place.’
What Hurricane Florence storm surges could look like
A simulation weather video is showing what the life-threatening Hurricane Florence storm surge might look like if it reaches a frightening nine feet.
Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet have been forecast in some areas in North and South Carolina.
The Weather Channel‘s forecast video shows the potential damage such surges could inflict on the southern states.
Dr Greg Postel, the network’s hurricane specialist, said three feet of water was enough to knock people off their feet, potentially carry cars away and flood lower levels of buildings.
Six feet of storm surge could carry large objects like cars underwater and leave lower levels structures submerged in water, according to Dr Postel.
The video also gives a frightening indication of what nine feet of water looks like – completely submerging lower buildings.