Weathermen Ditch Live Broadcast As Hurricane Florence Floods Station

Volunteer Amber Hersel from the Civilian Crisis Response Team helps rescue 7-year-old Keiyana Cromartie and her family from their flooded home

Hundreds of people needed to be rescued after becoming trapped in their homes by a storm surge of up to three metres in New Bern, a town of 30,000 in North Carolina at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers.

The powerful storm already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say that "catastrophic" freshwater flooding is expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas. As of 1 p.m. ET, the storm's sustained winds dropped to 75 miles per hour as it wobbled west-southwestward near the coast, delaying its expected move inland, the National Hurricane Center said.

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

The storm was about 35 miles east of Wilmington, N.C., and about 50 miles southwest of Morehead City, N.C., the National Hurricane Center's 2 a.m. EDT Friday advisory said.

A mother and infant were killed when a tree fell on their house.

Roads and intersections on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands were inundated. "If the number seems really insane high, you always have to have some suspicion until we can actually get out and verify it". The city said two FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more were on the way. He was pleased to get the texts, a sign that he still had cell phone reception, and chose to go rev up his generator that is now powering is refrigerator and his satellite TV, which he's spent a portion of Friday watching.

Several million people could lose power by the time Florence sloshes its way through the state. More than 60 others had to be rescued as a cinderblock motel collapsed.

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Hurricane Florence smashed into the Carolinas yesterday, pounding coastal areas with high winds, a surge of sea water and torrential rain.

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

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 18 trillion gallons of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.

"I had a lot of fear initially but I'm glad to be inside and safe", said Zelda Allen, 74, a retired tax accountant from Hampstead, North Carolina, who was riding out the storm at Wilmington's Hotel Ballast with her husband.

"If this thing comes inland and stops in eastern North Carolina like they forecast it, and we get two days of continuous rain, the rain will be our biggest damage", he said.

Hurricane Florence has barrelled into the Carolina coast and moved inland, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc. Fortunately for House, he says this storm should not be a devastating event for the beach town in terms of loss of life. Through noon Friday, 96 stores in the Carolinas and one in Virginia were closed because of the storm.

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