Hurricane Florence lashes U.S. east coast, triggers flood warnings

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The storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster. And it's travelling farther and creating deeper floods thanks to sea-level rise from climate change, which research indicates has added as much as 6 inches to Florence's surge.

The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 144 km/h by nightfall. FEMA officials wrote on Twitter people should not focus on the category of the storm - as of Thursday morning, Hurricane Florence was a Category 2 storm, indicating slower wind speeds - but rather should pay attention to the fact there will be extreme flooding in the Carolinas as a result.

"We've got to quickly understand the damage that's been done to the transportation systems, the communication systems, the power systems, and we are positioning, and have bene positioned for multiple days now, to get those critical lifelines back up and stable as quickly as we can", he said. "Surviving this storm with be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience".

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted. 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. It's expected to move slowly over eastern SC on Friday night through Saturday night.

The NHC said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rain could trigger landslides in the west of his state. As of Friday morning, there were upwards of 20,000 people in 157 shelters across the state of North Carolina, and that number will only continue to climb as rescue efforts are now underway.

The Canadian government has warned citizens against travel to the stretch of the U.S. East Coast that is expected to be hammered by Florence. Winds knocked down trees all over.

The county had been conducting water rescues since Thursday, Parker said.

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The more it hovers just off shore, the more potentially deadly storm surge it could push on-shore. As the storm moves inland it will find a relatively flat area for hundreds of miles.

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

Downed trees, branches on the hurricane-lashed streets of Wilmington, North Carolina.

No storm-related deaths or serious injuries were reported in the hours immediately after Florence hit but authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.

More than 1 million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia and thousands have moved to emergency shelters.

Trump faced severe criticism for his administration's response to Hurricane Maria a year ago in Puerto Rico.

As Florence drew near, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are "supplied and ready", and he disputed the official conclusion that almost 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

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