Published On: Sat, Sep 15th, 2018

Florence Downgraded From Hurricane To Tropical Storm, At Least 5 Dead In NC

Florence was downgraded Friday afternoon from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Florence Hurricane

The storm dropped to sustained winds of 70 mph, which is where they remained at 8 p.m. EDT. A Category 1 hurricane must have winds of at least 74 mph.

Track Florence

At 8 p.m., Florence was moving to the west at 3 mph, according to the NHC, which reported it was in “extreme eastern South Carolina.”

The “erratic” storm made landfall Friday morning near Wrightsville Beach, as North Carolina first responders and the governor reported the first five deaths associated with the storm.

Wilmington police reported that a tree fell on a house, killing a mother and her child. Pender County Emergency Management reported that a woman died of a heart attack when emergency crews couldn’t reach her because of fallen trees.

“Two people in Lenoir County were killed: a 78-year-old Kinston man who was electrocuted when connecting extension cords in the rain and a 77-year-old man who was blown down by the wind when he went to check on his hunting dogs,” The Raleigh News & Observer reported.

“Torrential” rains are expected to continue, the National Hurricane Center said as of its 3 p.m. update, and “catastrophic” freshwater flooding was expected over parts of North and South Carolina.

The storm was expected to dump 20 or more inches of rain in coastal cities, the NHC reported.

Florence officially made landfall at 7:15 a.m. near Wrightsville Beach, according to the National Hurricane Center. The first of the rain and wind gusts from Florence rolled ashore just before dawn Thursday at Morehead City, a Carteret County town that is expected to get 20 to 25 inches of rain in the next three days. “Isolated spots could see 30 to 40 inches of rain,” says the NHC.

North Carolina Highway Patrol Col. Glenn McNeill said areas of Interstate 95 “have experienced dangerous travel conditions” and the number of flooded roads is expected to continue to increase.

“Do not attempt to travel through water or go around barricades,” McNeill said.

The highway patrol had responded to 80 wrecks and 164 calls for service as of 5 p.m., McNeill said.

At least 33 primary roads and 30 secondary roads “are experiencing flooding and overwash,” North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said.

Roads in New Bern and greater Craven County were hit by rain and flooding from the Neuse River. A gauge where the Trent and Neuse rivers meet in New Bern recorded 10.1 feet of flooding about midnight.

Johnston County asked residents in low-lying and flood-prone areas to get to higher ground. A shelter was open at Clayton High School.

The Cherry Branch Ferry Terminal on the Neuse River near Havelock is seeing a storm surge of 10 feet above normal levels, according to the NHC.

N.C. 12 is closed on Hatteras Island and parts of U.S. 70 are shut down between Beaufort and Atlantic, as floodwaters covered the pavement, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.