WILMINGTON, N.C. – The National Hurricane Center said early Friday that the eyewall of Hurricane Florence is onshore in North Carolina, with landfall expected soon.
Florence has socked coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power. Forecasters say “catastrophic” freshwater flooding is expected over parts of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence gets closer to the U.S. East Coast.
The center said that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3 feet of inundation. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles north of Wilmington.
The storm was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane late Thursday with 90 mph winds, but hurricane officials still warned that it has plenty of punch to wreak havoc.
“Strength, track and forward speed of Florence will be the major players in determining the scope and amount of rainfall and correspondingly the severity of inland flooding,” AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.
And about 46 miles north of Emerald Isle in New Bern about 150 people waited for rescue from rising flood waters. The city said early Friday that two out-of-state FEMA teams were working on rescues and more teams were on the way.
“We’re estimating we’ve rescued 150-200,” New Bern Police Lt. David Daniels said early Friday morning.
Authorities are advising residents who have not evacuated to go to the highest point in their homes, call 9-1-1 for help, keep their cell batteries charged as best they can and wait for help to arrive.
The National Weather Service office in Newport, North Carolina in a tweet called the storm surge “catastrophic.”
The storm’s intensity weakened as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 90 mph by nightfall.
Tracker: Follow Hurricane Florence’s path
Contributing: Joey Gill, USA TODAY NETWORK
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