A woman and her infant child in North Carolina are the first reported Hurricane Florence casualties.
Two people were killed in Lenoir County, according to Emergency Services Director Roger Dail during the storm. The slow-moving storm is expected to dump as much as a metre of rain and bring a storm surge of up to three metres in some areas.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than one million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles.
"The storm is wreaking havoc on our state", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.
Storm surge could be as high as 11 feet in parts of North Carolina, prompting officials to closely watch the rise of rivers in the eastern part of the state.
In the neighborhood where the mother and child died, resident Frank Hendrickson pointed to a tree that fell next door to him but spared a neighbor's house.
A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man perished when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs.
Just after midnight, the station tweeted that everyone had safely evacuated.More news: Government to cut down non-essential imports: Arun Jaitley
Still, he said: "I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth".
Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. on Friday as a hurricane with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour - making it a Category 1 storm. But with a storm surge putting pressure on water to head back inland and heavy rains swelling those rivers, widespread flooding is the result.
"The sun rose this morning on an extremely unsafe situation and it's getting worse", Cooper said, calling Florence a "thousand-year rain event".
The town of Oriental, North Carolina, had gotten more than 18 inches of rain just a few hours into the deluge, while Surf City had 14 inches and it was still coming down.
City spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said in an interview with the AP around 10:30 a.m. Friday that about 120 others were still awaiting help.
Since 1950, the center of 24 tropical systems (tropical storms and hurricanes combined) have either directly hit Wilmington, North Carolina have come within 25 miles of Wilmington.
Forecasters have been predicting catastrophic flash flooding.
Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.More news: Threat becomes reality: Florence begins days of rain, wind
A fatal collision on Saturday morning left two injured and one dead in Georgetown County, SC.
It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern SC on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said.
In addition to the 20,000 evacuees in North Carolina shelters, SC housed 5,500 people in 59 shelters as of Thursday night, a state Red Cross spokesperson said. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimetres) of water, he calculated.
On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air.
The hurricane came ashore early on Friday, pounding the state with torrential rain and high winds.
More than 1,300 flights for Friday had been canceled along the East Coast.
In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse. We were forced to have conversations with these people and say hey, do you by chance live in a two-story home?
"These are folks who made a decision to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation", she said. "It's very hard to say at this point". "So we made a decision to stay", she said. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.More news: Eliud Kipchoge Breaks Marathon World Record in Berlin
"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington".
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