Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Friday, battering the state with a powerful combination of wind and rain. The storm has been linked to several deaths, according to officials. Some areas are grappling with intense flooding, while many in the city of New Bern required rescue in the early hours of the day.
The dangerous storm, which was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon, is expected to keep lashing parts of North and South Carolina into the weekend. Follow Hurricane Florence’s projected path here and read the latest forecasts here.
2:30 a.m.: New daily rainfall record in Fayetteville, N.C.
The National Weather Service has reported a new daily rainfall record of 3.11 inches set at Fayetteville Regional Airport, about 100 miles inland from the coast, on the banks of the Cape Fear River. It broke the old record of 2.92 inches set in 1984.
Tropical storm Florence is now moving slowly inland at 5 miles per hour over far eastern South Carolina, as it continues to dump rain over a wide radius spanning both Carolinas in volumes that are expected soon to surpass other records set by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Florence is dropping one to three inches of rain an hour in some places, according to the National Weather Service.
— Abigail Hauslohner
12:23 a.m.: 773,903 are without power across North Carolina
At least 773,903 households were without power, as of midnight, the North Carolina Emergency Management Agency reported. Outages have been the most concentrated in New Hanover, Brunswick, Wake, Onslow, Carteret, Pender, Robeson, Wayne counties. Updates are available here.
Most of those counties were also under curfew overnight, amid a series of flash flood emergencies.
The National Weather Service posted a map of road closures in the Morehead City area — not to alert residents to specific road closures, but “to emphasize how bad it is.”
— Abigail Hauslohner
11:45 p.m.: Flash flood emergencies proliferate across North Carolina as heavy rain continues
The National Weather Service has issued flash flood emergencies — the most critical category of flood warning — for several counties, and flash flood and tornado warnings for several others. Friday’s forecasts suggest up to 50 inches of rain could fall in southeast North Carolina through Sunday.
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— Abigail Hauslohner
9:00 p.m.: Florence rainfall nears record levels, prompting a flash flood emergency
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood emergency — the most critical category of flood warning — for Carteret, Craven, Jones, and Pamlico counties in North Carolina, calling it a “significant flooding situation.”
Total rainfall from the storm reached 23.04 inches in Morehead as of 8 p.m., the agency announced, nearing the state record of 24.06 inches set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Friday’s forecasts suggest up to 50 inches of rain could fall in southeast North Carolina through Sunday.
— Angela Fritz
8:37 p.m.: The ‘long way around’: Truckers face a giant detour as Florence closes down highways
Professional truck drivers are adjusting their routes to avoid North and South Carolina, with both states “frozen” as Hurricane Florence unfolds.
Nesor Lopez, a trucker with Carroll Fulmer who drives the southeastern route as a regional driver, says no one is driving on I-95 into South Carolina right now and no one has any idea when the interstate will reopen. He was taking a break at a truck stop near the Richmond Hills exit on I-95 outside of Savannah.
“We cannot drive with winds above 50 mph, especially with light loads anyway,” Lopez said.
He said his longer-distance colleagues are taking the “long way around” to carry cargo up north by way of Atlanta by taking I-16 to Atlanta, up to the Tennessee border on I-75 and over on other interstates above North Carolina to New York and New England. He said navigating through Atlanta is probably challenging at this point.
In the meantime, Lopez continues to carry merchandise from such places as Walmart or Home Depot up to the Savannah area.
“I can see us bring up a lots of loads from Home Depot when people go back to their homes in South Carolina,” he said.
Lopez is based out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and has only been driving trucks for two years. He says he has seen his share of hurricanes but faced his first hurricane as a trucker in 2017 with Hurricane Irma.
— Sharon Dunten
7:30 p.m.: At least five deaths in North Carolina linked to Florence, officials say
Authorities in North Carolina had linked at least five deaths to the storm as of Friday evening, including a mother and an infant killed when a tree fell onto their home.
The mother and infant were killed in Wilmington when the tree fell over, police said. A third person was also injured — the father, who was taken to the hospital, according to police.
Officials in Pender County said a woman died Friday morning when she was having a heart attack and emergency crews were unable to reach her in time because of downed trees and debris in the road. The crews trying to get to her attempted to move the debris with a front loader, but a tree went through the windshield of the equipment, causing further delays, the officials said.
“This happened this morning at the height of our storm,” Tammy Proctor, a spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. “High winds, we have tree debris … when our EMS people can’t get to something, it bothers them.”
In Lenoir County, local authorities reported two deaths, both in Kinston, a city southeast of Raleigh. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted Friday morning when trying to connect two extension cords in the rain, according to Roger Dail, the Lenoir County director of emergency services; family members found his body. A 77-year-old man’s body was also found by relatives on Friday morning. Officials believe he was killed after being blown down by wind when going outside to check on his hunting dogs, Dail said.
“Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said in a statement. “Hurricane Florence is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days. Be extremely careful and stay alert.”
— Mark Berman
7:14 p.m.: Rescue operation underway in New Bern, N.C.
6:40 p.m.: Evacuee died Thursday morning at shelter in Shallotte, N.C.
An evacuee at the West Brunswick High School shelter in Shallotte, N.C., died Thursday morning. Amanda Hutcheson, a spokeswoman for Brunswick County, said an investigation is underway but added that the death was unrelated to the storm and that there was no reason for others at the shelter to worry.
“We are saddened by the sudden passing of one of our community,” Hutcheson wrote in an email. “And our hearts go out to the family and friends who are now grieving during such an already stressful period.”
— Sarah Kaplan
5:45 p.m.: Power outages top 686,000 in North Carolina
North Carolina officials said Friday afternoon that the number of power outages had topped 686,000, a number that has steadily climbed throughout the day as the state was lashed by wind and rain.
State officials also warned people to expect the number of flooded roadways to go up as well, urging them not to try to get through water or around barricades. Since midnight, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol has responded to 80 collisions and twice that many calls for service, authorities said.
— Mark Berman
5:06 p.m.: Florence downgraded to a tropical storm; water still poses grave threat
The National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin that Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm, with maximum sustained wind speeds having decreased to near 70 mph. Florence’s winds are expected to keep gradually weakening tonight and then significantly over the weekend.
The storm still poses an extreme risk to people in the Carolinas with warnings of “life-threatening storm surges” and “catastrophic” flooding in both states, the hurricane center said. Forecasts call for up to 40 inches of rain in some areas, with more than 16 inches of rainfall already reported in some parts of North Carolina.
— Mark Berman