Sat, Sep 15, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Hurricane Florence smashes into east coast of US

AFP, WILMINGTON, North Carolina

Jamie Thompson walks through flooded sections of East Front Street near Union Point Park in New Bern, North Carolina, on Thursday.

Photo: AP

Hurricane Florence yesterday smashed into the east coast of the US with howling winds, torrential rain and life-threatening storm surges, as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by floodwaters.

Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding and other mayhem from the monster storm, which is only Category 1, but physically sprawling and dangerous.

The port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, woke yesterday to the sound of exploding electrical transformers with strong gusts throwing street signs and other debris, as well as water, in all directions, a reporter at the scene said.

The storm officially made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at 7:15am, the National Hurricane Center said.

Center Director Ken Graham said that the slow pace of the storm exacerbated its danger even to areas outside its immediate path.

“The longer you have this hurricane wind flow, the longer you push that water well inland,” he said.

Rescue workers in North Carolina were scrambling to save people stranded in their homes.

Video footage showed parking lots in the riverfront town of New Bern turn into shallow lakes of dirty gray water as heavy rain fell.

New Bern Police Lieutenant David Daniels early yesterday morning said that between 150 and 200 people had been rescued so far, with others still waiting for help.

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

Nearly 300,000 customers in North Carolina were reported to be without power as the outer band of the storm approached.

In an advisory, the center said that Florence was packing winds of 150kph and moving northwest at 10kph.

It added the greatest threats to life came from storm surges, while “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding” was expected, with some areas receiving up to 100cm of rainfall.

In a display of the early effects of the storm, one flood gauge on the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina, showed 3m of flooding, the center said.

With winds picking up along the coastline earlier on Thursday, federal and state officials had issued final appeals to residents to get out of the path of the “once in a lifetime” weather system.

“This storm will bring destruction,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “Catastrophic effects will be felt.”

The center said hurricane-force winds extended outward 130km from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended nearly 310km out.

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

Brock Long, the administrator of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that the danger was not only along the coast.

“Inland flooding kills a lot of people, unfortunately, and that’s what we’re about to see,” he said.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.

Myrtle Beach, a South Carolina beach resort, was deserted with empty streets, boarded-up storefronts and very little traffic.

A state of emergency has been declared in five coastal states — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that 1 to 3 million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

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