Hurricane Florence Pummels NC Coast With Heavy Surf, Storm Surge

The U.S. military says a massive relief effort is ready to sweep into affected areas to deliver food and water, conduct search and rescue missions, as well as provide medical care and restore power.

The No. 1 priority, he said, is to save lives.

The hurricane's storm surge - the wall of water it pushed in from the Atlantic - had "overwhelmed" New Bern, a town of about 30,000 people next to the Neuse River, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.

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 storm officially made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina at 7:15 a.m. (1115 GMT), the National Hurricane Center said. "I'm not sure if it's a shift in the wind or low tide - but the water has miraculously disappeared".

The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.

As of 8am ET on Thursday, Florence was driving maximum sustained winds of 110mph (177km/h), according to an updated forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

The city was reeling early Friday as more than 10 feet of storm surge from Hurricane Florence trapped people in their homes and vehicles, forcing at least 200 evacuations. Gradual weakening is expected throughout the day Friday, with significant weakening predicted over the weekend.

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Hurricane Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday, bending trees and shooting frothy sea water over streets on the Outer Banks, as the hulking storm closed in with 90 miles per hour (135 kph) winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend.

"Those outer bands are just as destructive as areas that come close to the walls, so it's going to be a very long overnight for a lot of people between Virginia all the way down to Georgia", Dresner said.

The hurricane center predicts as much as 101 centimeters of rain for some parts of North Carolina and storm surges as high as 4 meters - taller than many houses.

With graphics depicting an intersection on a street in the American state of North Carolina, the forecaster explains what is likely to happen as the water engulfs the state's coastline amid sound effects of wind, rain and rushing water.

Defense Secretary James Mattis activated dual-status commanders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to command and control active duty and National Guard forces. Cooper said he hopes more shelters will also open today.

The winds in Charleston, South Carolina, will start to pick up tonight and will remain fairly steady throughout the storm.

The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas. That advisory came out on August 30, when Florence was developing near the Cabo Verde Islands across the Atlantic.

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