Hurricane Florence pounds Carolinas ahead of landfall

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After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", tweeted the city of New Bern. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", it added.

But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Governor Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

The National Hurricane Center is monitoring four other storm systems in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.

"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending", Cooper said.

There were no immediate reports of any deaths. The Category 1 storm's winds have weakened in intensity as it neared the coast, but forecasters say the real hazard from the storm will most likely be the rains and flooding as the storm moves southwest into SC before turning north.

"It's probably going to take another 24 hours" for Florence to pass through the Wilmington region, Reid Hawkins, science officer with the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, said at 5 a.m. Friday.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

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"As Florence moves inland, we'll see more rain and more flooding from our rivers".

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of environmental havoc from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

At least 321,000 people were without power in North Carolina with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to the state's emergency management agency. It is moving to the west-northwest at 6 miles per hour.

Rains are expected to be quite a real hazard from the storm, as it will have a slow movement towards SC before it turns north. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches of water, he calculated. Pieces of ripped-apart buildings flew through the air. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines. Gusty winds will send the ocean and rivers spilling into neighborhoods. Roof shingles were peeled off a hotel.

A gust of 105 miles per hour (169 km/h) was recorded at Wilmington airport, surpassing the power of Hurricane Fran two decades ago.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door to door to pull more than 60 people out as the Triangle Motor Inn began to crumble.

In New Bern, about 150 people waited to be rescued from flooding on the Neuse River, local officials said.

Key warnings published by the NHC at 5 a.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

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"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.

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 electricity went out. "We have two boats and all our worldly possessions", said Susan Patchkofsky, who refused her family's pleas to evacuate and stayed at Emerald Isle with her husband. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding.

Officials in North Carolina's Harnett County, about 90 miles inland, urged residents of about 1,100 homes to evacuate because the Lower Little River was rising toward record levels. "Nothing's hit the house yet, but it's still blowing".

And they say people who are truly in an emergency should call 911, not just Tweet about it.

In South Carolina, 155,000 customers are without power, officials said. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

Tropical Storm Florence continued to thrash the Carolinas on Friday evening with fierce winds, driving rain and catastrophic flooding.

Will Epperson, a 36-year-old golf course assistant superintendent, said he and his wife had planned to ride out the storm at their home in Hampstead, North Carolina, but then reconsidered.

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