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Hurricane Florence Makes Landfall in N. Carolina

Hurricane Florence Makes Landfall in N. CarolinaHurricane Florence Makes Landfall in N. Carolina

Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina early Friday, pushing a life-threatening storm surge of floodwater miles inland and ripping apart buildings with screaming wind and pelting rain.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued. Pieces of buildings ripped apart by the storm flew through the air, AP reported.

Most ominously, forecasters said the terrifying onslaught would last for hours and hours, because Florence was barely creeping along and still drawing energy from the ocean.

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. local time at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington, as the center of its eye moved onshore, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Coastal streets flowed with frothy ocean water, and more than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation's electrical grid.

Forecasters said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.

Florence's fiercest winds will linger around the coast for hours since the storm was moving forward at only 9 kph. Hurricane-force winds extended 130 kilometers from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached out to 315 kilometers.

Winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence moved in for an extended stay, with enough of its killer winds swirling overseas to maintain its power. Forecasters said the onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

The storm's maximum sustained winds held at about 144 kph, and it appeared that the north side of the eye was the most dangerous place to be as Florence moved ashore. A gust of 169 kph was recorded at Wilmington airport, surpassing the power of Hurricane Fran two decades ago.

The National Hurricane Center said a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 1.92 meters of inundation. Emerald Isle is about 135 kilometers north of Wilmington.

The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal South Carolina, where emergency managers said people could still leave flood-prone areas.

"There is still time, but not a lot of time," said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Department of Emergency Management.

More than 80,000 people in North Carolina already were without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

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.

Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it is unclear how many did. The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

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