Florence weakens to depression, flood risk rises

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At least five people have died since the storm crashed into the coast and almost stalled. Six people died in SC, including four in auto accidents and two from carbon monoxide from a portable generator.

In New Bern, a riverfront city near North Carolina's coast, the storm tore away porch steps, splintered balconies and sent a yacht ploughing into a garage that shattered like kindling.

Catastrophic flooding from Florence spread across the Carolinas on Sunday, with roads to Wilmington cut off by the epic deluge and muddy river water swamping entire neighborhoods miles inland.

"This is an uninvited brute that just won't leave", he told NBC.

The hurricane's storm surge - the wall of water it pushed in from the Atlantic - "overwhelmed" the town of New Bern at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. When Florence started battering eastern North Carolina with record rainfall, the Neuse and Trent rivers began to swell - and combined with high tide, made for risky flooding. "I'm scared to death of flooding", she said, "and actually just losing my life".

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

The center of Florence made technical landfall at about 7:15 a.m. on Friday near Wrightsville Beach, N.C. As of 12 p.m., the storm was about 24 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, N.C., and about 45 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, S.C. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 120 miles per hour winds on Thursday but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore.

There is really nowhere for the water to go. Because Florence is moving so slowly, he said, it will dump more rain than Mangkhut, which is named for the Thai word for the mangosteen fruit.

The area is expected to get about as much rain in three days as Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd dropped in two weeks in 1999. Other communities got well over a foot.

In South Carolina's Myrtle Beach, Victor Shamah, the owner of The Bowery bar, chose to open because people 'wanted to eat, they didn't have any place to eat.

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An Army National Guard vehicle takes a swift water rescue team and their boat down a flooded street to evacuate people stranded by floodwaters caused by Florence in New Bern on Saturday.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared previous year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths. It will likely weaken more on Friday, with "rapid weakening forecast over the weekend", the hurricane center said.

The hurricane has torn buildings apart and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.

Metal signs and roof coverings littered the biggest commercial byway, Market Street, and trees blocked many roads.

The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958, the weather service said. Almost 2 million Americans live within a mile of the most at-risk sites.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull dozens of people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse. Farther inland, this rainfall will cause new areas of river flooding, flash flooding, and even a potential for landslides in and near the Appalachians.

"We're in God's hands", said Rick Foreman, pastor at West Lumberton Baptist Church, as the Lumber River steadily rose Friday and local residents filled sandbags. "That's why we've been preaching to people that you have to get away from the water".

"What we want to try to do is to minimize the time that people spend in their shelters that they're in right now", Sprayberry said.

"As conditions change, GPS navigation systems are not keeping up with the road closures and are directing people onto roads that are confirmed closed and/or flooded", the state Transportation Department said on Twitter. "Do NOT attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order".

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