Hurricane Florence made landfall on the United States Friday morning, with the eye of the storm moving ashore at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at around 7:15 a.m. local time, Sputnik reports. It’s weaker than expected, but is slow-moving and has brought torrential downpours and record storm surges that are inundating communities in feet of water.
Once the storm's eye was ashore, it quickly began to weaken, and by 5 p.m. local time was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, as its strongest sustained wind speeds fell below 75 mph, CBS noted.
Five people are dead in the Carolinas due to the storm, the Associated Press reported Friday evening.
A mother and her baby died when a tree fell on their home; an old woman died of a heart attack when emergency vehicles were unable to reach her home due to the storm; a man was electrocuted connecting extension cords outside his home; and an old man was killed when the storm forcefully blew him down while he was checking on his hunting dogs, The Weather Channel reported.
Over 750,000 homes and businesses are without power as the storm tears down trees and electrical wires.
Nearly 2,100 flights have been cancelled through Saturday as a result of the storm.
As Florence's outer rain bands neared the eastern shores of the United States, the storm's powerful winds and low air pressure pushed the sea inland, forming record-high storm surges. At Cape Fear, North Carolina, the sea was 8.27 feet higher than normal, according to the National Weather Service. The sea was also pushed up rivers, meaning that even towns far from the coast have been inundated under feet of water.
The NWS had issued flash flood emergencies across several North Carolina counties by Friday evening, citing the nearly two feet of rain that have already fallen in Carteret, Jones, Craven and Pamlico counties. Another 4 to 8 inches of rain is expected overnight.
FEMA has carried out numerous water rescues, including one of over 150 people in New Bern, North Carolina, a riverfront town in Craven County, north of the eye of the storm but lashed by severe rain bands.
Further inland, rain bands reaching the Appalachian Mountains have raised new concerns: mudslides.
In western North Carolina and Virginia, officials have closed the entire 469-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway and evacuated campgrounds, the Charlotte Observer reported.