The full force of Hurricane Florence began colliding with the coast around 6 a.m. Friday, slamming into Wilmington, North Carolina with whipping winds around 90 mph and gusts of 105 miles per hour.
Overnight, Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 mph, but it’s still shaping up to be an epic storm.
The massive hurricane is moving slowly, unleashing extra havoc as it hovers over the region, including deadly storm surge and flooding rains. It’s moving so slowly and dumping so much rain that some have called it a “siege” of the region.
Outside the NWS Newport/Morehead City at 930 pm. pic.twitter.com/tErYVLRYQd
— NWS Newport/Morehead (@NWSMoreheadCity) September 14, 2018
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper 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.”
Florence has already been ripping apart buildings and has knocked out power to a half-million homes and businesses, and more than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel.
Hundreds more had to be rescued in other areas from rising waters, including in New Bern, North Carolina, where 150 people called to be rescued from rising flood waters, but it’s unclear if rescuers will be able to reach them all under the intense conditions.
Currently ~150 awaiting rescue in New Bern. We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue. More are on the way to help us. WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. #FlorenceNC
— City of New Bern (@CityofNewBern) September 14, 2018
“Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience,” Gov. Cooper said.
In South Carolina, another state in the hurricane’s crosshairs, emergency officials turned to the Bible, publicly praying and citing Proverbs 6:6-8 which talks about being prepared.
“Help us to use this event as a rallying point for unity, help us to honor and praise you even in the midst of the storm,” a military prayed.
Breaking: #HurricaneFlorence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 am ET. @NOAA‘s #GOESEast satellite got a view of the Cat. 1 hurricane moving ashore this morning. Latest updates from @NHC_Atlantic: https://t.co/UHhgfFVsSQ pic.twitter.com/ZxXJkNdjoK
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) September 14, 2018
Florence is expected to dump some 20 inches of rain on Myrtle Beach, SC, and is churning storm surges of 10 feet. Farther inland, rivers are already overflowing their banks. In mountainous regions, officials warn of mudslides.
Here’s a rainfall prediction from the National Hurricane Center:
Power outages are already widespread and 40,000 power workers from 17 states are mobilized to respond.
Tens of thousands of people across the Carolinas and Virginia are weathering the storm in shelters.
“Once these winds start blowing at that tropical storm rate it would be virtually impossible for the rescuers to get in to rescue you,” Gov. Henry McMaster warned.
President Trump says he’s confident the federal government is ready to respond. Many in the storm’s path are holding on to the promise that they’re not alone.
“Help us to remember that the same God that created the heavens and the earth is the same God that is with us and will see us through the storm. We ask all these things in your gracious name Lord,” a military chaplain prayed as Gov. McMaster and others bowed their heads.