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Over 634,000 without power as Florence batters Carolinas

Over 634,000 without power as Florence batters Carolinas

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am local time at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington, the National Hurricane Center said.

Another live stream at Wilmington Tower, which usually broadcasts sweeping views of the North Carolina landscape, shows storm clouds rolling in over the ocean.

The storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 90 miles per hour (144 kph) by nightfall.

Tominack said he is seeing extremely strong winds, but he has not yet had any issues with flooding. The center of the hurricane will remain close to the coast Friday, "with much of the circulation still over water".

Once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 225 kph, the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds.

Online footage captured the moment a tree fell down almost crashing into a auto driving down the road as the eyewall of the hurricane smashed into North Carolina.

Ken Graham, director of the hurricane center, said on Facebook the storm surges could push in as far as 3 kilometers (2 miles). Forecasters said the onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

The hurricane knocked a basketball-sized hole in the wall of the Triangle Motor causing cinder blocks to crumble and the roof to fall down - while residents were still in their rooms.

New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw told The Herald-Sun around 5 a.m. that about 200 people had been rescued so far. New Bern is about 32 miles north of Morehead City, North Carolina, and 101 miles southeast of Raleigh.

But forecasters say Florence's biggest threat, as with all hurricanes, lies in its water: a storm surge of up to 11 feet and rainfall that will trigger catastrophic flooding.

"We've rescued over 100 people in New Bern, NC; people from Jacksonville, NC, had to be rescued from a hotel", Cooper said, describing efforts to save residents north of Wilmington, where high floods have already hit.

City spokeswoman Colleen Roberts said in an interview with the AP around 10:30 a.m. Friday that about 120 others were still awaiting help.

Air Force General Terrence J O'Shaughnessy, head of US Command, said search and rescue is a top priority but that the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of rescuers.

Hurricane Florence remains on track to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to coastal North and SC, the National Weather Service says.

The water starts at her feet, rising behind her to three feet and "coming up my shins towards my waist", then to six feet and finally to nine feet, dwarfing her as she warns of the storm surge.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia. "A USGS gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently recorded 6.3 feet of inundation".

The National Weather Service office in Newport, North Carolina, in a tweet called the storm surge "catastrophic".

The now Category 1 storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 miles per hour (135 kph) by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

Coastal streets flowed with frothy ocean water, and more than 460,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the country's electrical grid.

Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.

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