Hurricane Florence maintains strength as it nears coast

Hurricane Florence Dumps 'Epic Amounts of Rainfall' On US States

More than 2 feet of rain had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on, with forecasters saying there could be an additional 1½ feet before Sunday is out.

Florence is located about 155 miles (250 kilometers) east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, packing maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (155 km/h), the Miami-based weather forecaster said. The Little River, the Cape Fear, the Lumber, the Neuse, the Waccamaw and the Pee Dee were all projected to rise over their banks, flooding cities and towns.

The center of the storm made landfall around 7:15 a.m. Friday near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., close to the SC border. It has top sustained winds of 35 miles per hour (55 kph) and is moving west at 8 miles per hour (13 kph).

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told reporters that five deaths have been officially confirmed in his state, with several more under investigation. Earlier, authorities said a man drowned after his pickup truck flipped into a drainage ditch along a flooded SC road and two people died from inhaling carbon monoxide from a generator in their home. The previous record of 24.06 inches was set during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

The National Hurricane Center said Florence broke a North Carolina rainfall record that had stood for nearly 20 years: Preliminary reports showed Swansboro got more than 30 inches and counting, obliterating the mark set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd dropped just over 24 inches on the state.

Two Upper Cumberland Electric construction crews were sent to North Carolina to help with the expected electrical damage from the hurricane.

Researchers and insurance experts say many Americans choose not to get flood insurance because of a belief that flooding will not happen to them, or if it does, federal disaster assistance cover their losses.

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Two men were also killed in Lenoir County, North Carolina. The White House released a photograph showing Trump seated at a desk with a phone to his ear and Vice President Mike Pence standing nearby.

Three more people died in Duplin County, NC, due to flash flooding, according to a post on the sheriff department's Facebook page.

Despite the fact that Saturday is the "Florence" weakened to a tropical storm, the resulting floods and the continuing threat of new floods further complicate the task of the authorities North and SC.

Part of downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, is inundated by water from the swollen Cape Fear River. North Carolina's secretary of transportation, Jim Trogdon, says it's even worse than what the state saw two years ago in Hurricane Matthew.

Tornadoes remain a threat, with the NHC saying that "a few tornadoes are possible in southeastern North Carolina and northeastern SC".

The Cape Fear was at 12.15 feet at 5 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

By Sunday afternoon, the river had reached almost 24 feet.

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Corey Walters, the city's deputy director of public works, said this was a worst-case storm scenario. "So far we've been holding up pretty well", said McLean, 72, a self-employed heating and air conditioning contractor. "There have been hundreds of rescues".

At one point Sunday afternoon, part of a makeshift barrier meant to plug a low point in the city's main levee system gave way and river water leaked through - prompting workers to try to shore it back up with construction equipment.

Official predict that when the water reaches 26 feet, the barriers will be overwhelmed.

"If you are in these areas, this is a serious life threatening matter", said Fayetteville mayor Mitch Colvin.

One family riding out the storm in a cluster of homes on the outskirts of Lumberton was content to leave their fate in God's hands.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm. "On the forecast track, Florence's center will move across the western Carolinas today and then recurve over the Ohio Valley and Northeast U.S".

As it moves near OH and West Virginia, it will become a remnant low.

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