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14 September 2018, 05:36 | Edward Lowe
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images
The National Weather Serviceshared images of Union Point on the shore at New Bern before and after the storm surge hit. Categories only represent the speed of sustained winds, and these are still destructive.
The barrier island of Emerald Isle is under water, with ocean waves rolling in over a six-foot storm surge and crashing into homes.
The danger came in the form of a massive storm surge.
The forecast calls for as much as 40 inches (102 centimeters) of rain over seven days along the coast, with the deluge continuing even as the center of the storm pushes its way over the Appalachian Mountains. "Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience".
The storm is moving inland at a speed of 6 miles per hour and conditions are likely to deteriorate as it pushes its way southwest along the coast Friday through Saturday. An additional 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
More than a million people along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate. Cooper and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster told more than 1 million people who were directed to leave that if they don't evacuate, no one will come to save them.
The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before daybreak in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.
Coastal streets were inundated with ocean water, causing damage to dozens of homes and businesses, officials said.
The coastal area of SC features hundreds of inlets while North Carolina has barrier islands miles away from the mainland.
As of 2 a.m., Florence was centered about 35 miles east of Wilmington, N.C. Its forward movement increased slightly to 6 mph. We will have tropical storm force winds and rain and storm surge continues to be our main concern with extreme flooding.
ISS images show massive Hurricane Florence from 400 km up
Another Wilmington resident said she does not want to leave because she is afraid to see what she would be coming back to. The center downgraded Florence to a Category 1 hurricane, but warned that it still carried "very risky winds".
A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.
Forecasters said the Category 1 storm's extreme size meant it could batter the U.S. East Coast with hurricane-force winds for almost a full day.
The storm could dump 20 to 30 inches of rain along the Carolina coast and up to 12 inches inland.
Florence's winds had dropped from a peak of 225km/h to 169km/h by Thursday, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2.
An estimated 10 million people live in the storm's path, according to the US Weather Prediction Center, and coastal businesses and homes were boarded up in anticipation. After criticism for its response in Puerto Rico to last year's Hurricane Maria, which officials there said was responsible for 3,000 deaths, Trump has vowed a vigorous response to Florence and defended his handling of Maria.
"We'll operate without power; we have candles. And you don't need power to sling booze", said owner Eli Ellsworth.
Evacuations in United States ahead of Hurricane Florence
There was also concern over crops. "It's going to be bad", said Woody White, chairman of the New Hanover County Commissioners. At least 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia have been warned to evacuate, and others are hunkering down.
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