Hurricane Florence brings flooding and blackouts

Shianne Coleman gets a hand from friend Austin Gremmel as they walk in flooded streets as the Neuse River begins to flood its banks during Hurricane Florence

The National Hurricane Center said a gauge north of Wilmington in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, reported 1.92 metres of inundation. Hurricane Florence will slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.

By early afternoon, Florence's winds had weakened to 193km/hr, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm's terrifying Category 4 peak of 225km/hr earlier in the week.

Forecasters say "it can not be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland".

Forecasters said that given the storm's size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.

The hurricane has been moving at only 3-6 miles per hour as it drops torrential rains.

Hurricane-force winds extended 130km from its centre, and tropical storm-force winds reached out to 315km.

More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire.

None of the people rescued were injured.

As of 5 a.m., Florence was 25 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence has killed at least three people after it crashed on North Carolina's coast on Friday.

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Earlier Friday, the Wilmington Police said they were responding to this incident. A city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been plucked to safety. Roberts said numerous residents live near the Neuse and Trent rivers. Roberts says the storm surge continues to increase as Florence passes over the area.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted around 2 a.m.

The biggest danger, as forecasters saw it, was not the wind but the water: the storm surge along the coastline and the prospect of 300 to 1000mm of rain over the next several days that could trigger catastrophic flooding in a slow-motion disaster well inland.

More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centers were moved out of the storm's path.

Hundreds more were rescued elsewhere from rising water.

At least four people, including a mother and her baby, were confirmed dead on Friday night as Hurricane Florence brought a "biblical" deluge to the USA east coast.

The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 169 km/hr the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come.

Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.

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