Hurricane Florence continued sweeping across part of the southeastern United States on Friday, making landfall in North Carolina and bringing with it powerful winds along with forecasts warning of “life-threatening” storm surge and rainfall.
Collapsed roofs and other structures were already reported in the Morehead City and New Bern areas of North Carolina. New Bern was particularly hard hit, with reports of more than 100 people stranded in their homes or cars in need of rescue. The large and dangerous storm is expected to keep battering parts of North and South Carolina on Friday. Follow Hurricane Florence’s projected path here.
11:31 a.m.: Virginia governor lifts mandatory evacuation orders
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Friday morning lifted mandatory evacuation orders in coastal Virginia. In a statement, his office said the orders were lifted at 10:45 a.m. after the National Hurricane Center lifted the tropical storm warning for that part of the state.
“The imminent threat of coastal flooding and high winds have passed for our coastal communities as Hurricane Florence has made landfall in the Carolinas and we believe it is safe for Virginians to begin returning home,” Northam said in a statement. “We are shifting our focus to the expected inland flooding and damage to Southwest Virginia as Florence turns north this weekend.”
— Mark Berman
11:18 a.m.: A look at flooding in New Bern, N.C.
10:10 a.m.: Water rescue teams prepare for a busy day
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — On Friday morning, the Onslow County swiftboat EMS crew stationed in a government building in Jacksonville received an update from the county’s chief of fire rescue that hurricane-force winds would carry on until 1 p.m. By that point, another two feet of rain will have fallen.
“We’re going to get busy around 1 o’clock, so rest up because we’re probably going to be busy,” Jaime Lozano, the swiftboat team captain, told the crew.
Shortly after, Lozano got a request to help set up a shelter at a nearby high school. As the team assembled its emergency gear and prepared to venture into the storm, it stood by for specific calls to pick up people stranded in their homes in need of evacuation.
It was unclear just how many people needed to be brought to safety. “I imagine if they’re opening up a shelter, it’ll be a lot of trips,” Lozano said.
9:49 a.m.: “This is only the beginning”
Hours after Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina, federal officials stressed that the danger posed by the storm was far from over.
“This is only the beginning,” said Chris Wamsley of the National Weather Service. “We’ve already seen a foot of rain just north of Wilmington area. We’re still expecting rainfall amounts of 20 to 30 inches, some isolated spots of 40 inches.”
Jeff Byard, FEMA associate administrator, echoed this and warned people to expect the slow-moving storm to keep pummeling the Carolinas.
“This is not the end of it,” he said at a briefing Friday morning. “Twenty-four to 36 hours remain of a significant threat from heavy rain, heavy surge, not just in North Carolina but obviously down as we move in to South Carolina.”
Byard urged people who had not heeded evacuation orders to remain in place and try to stay safe. He said federal officials had teams embedded on the state level and described a partnership of multiple government agencies and private businesses prepared and ready to respond.
“We have what we need,” he said. “We have what we need staged throughout the area, both as far as manpower and teams as well as commodities, resources, communications.”
Authorities continued to urge patience and remind people that damage was inevitable as Florence continued its punishing onslaught.
“We have to set those expectations,” Byard said. “This is going to be a duration. Power will be off, infrastructure will be damaged or destroyed, homes will be damaged or destroyed.”
— Mark Berman
9 a.m.: Wilmington sees strongest wind gusts in half a century
The storm may have weakened to a Category 1, but it still packs quite a powerful punch. Wilmington, a city in southeastern North Carolina, was hit with wind gusts of 105 mph on Friday morning, the strongest in a half-century, according to the National Weather Service.
The wind gusts were the most powerful since Hurricane Helen crashed into Wilmington on Sept. 27, 1958, the weather service said.
— Mark Berman
The city of New Bern, N.C., was hit hard by Hurricane Florence overnight, with city officials saying shortly before 2:30 a.m. that about 150 people there were awaiting rescue.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said Friday morning that more than 100 people in New Bern have been rescued, “but there’s still more to go,” he said.
“We’re glad to see the sunlight here,” Cooper said in an interview on “Fox and Friends.” He noted that there was still significant work ahead for the state, saying it was “time to move from preparation to determination” as residents and officials alike respond to the storm.
State transportation officials told residents that major roads in the New Bern area were closed and that secondary roads had not been examined due to the conditions, but they said that due to the flooding, “assume roads are impassable.”
— Mark Berman
Hurricane Florence is battering North Carolina this morning, but the storm has only just begun for the region, reports the Capital Weather Gang:
Beyond Friday’s torrential rain, multi-foot storm surge and widespread power outages, Florence will continue to batter the region through early next week. The storm’s winds are weakening, but some of its most devastating effects may be yet to come.
Through the weekend, the massive storm — containing a zone of tropical-storm-force winds nearly 400 miles wide — will drift inland, engulfing much of South Carolina and southern North Carolina. The National Weather Service says nearly 5 million people could witness at least 10 inches of rain as the slow-moving storm makes slow forward progress.
Head here for more.
8:20 a.m.: Watch Florence make landfall
8 a.m.: More than 400,000 without power in North Carolina
North Carolina state officials reported Friday morning that more than 400,000 customers were facing power outages this morning, a number that is likely to increase as the storm’s winds continue to tear at trees and power lines. Outage maps provided by Duke Energy showed that more than a quarter of them were concentrated in two areas on the state’s coast: one around the Wilmington region, the other around Morehead City.
— Mark Berman
Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., at 7:15 a.m. on Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm hit with estimated maximum winds of 90 mph.
In a bulletin Friday morning, the hurricane center reported that the “center of the eye of Hurricane Florence finally makes landfall,” following the storm’s slow, grinding approach to the Southeastern coast.
— Mark Berman
6 a.m.: Florence eyewall is onshore. Center of storm due shortly for landfall near Wilmington, as hundreds of thousands lose power.
The National Weather Service reports that slow-moving Hurricane Florence is moving onto shore and headed toward Wilmington, N.C. The eyewall of Florence is already onshore, according to the National Hurricane Center, and the storm’s center is currently about 10 miles east of Wilmington and about 80 miles north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Gusts of up to 70 miles per hour have been recorded nearby in Topsail Beach, N.C.
Meanwhile, as many as 321,692 households in North Carolina currently lack power, the state’s emergency management department says.
The already high water levels are expected to rise even higher as the tide comes in, and flash flood warnings continue for Wilmington, Washington, Riverbend, and Vanceboro, N.C.
5 a.m.: Dire warning issued as Florence nears landfall
With Hurricane Florence about to make landfall, the National Hurricane Center predicted only a gradual decrease in the storm’s intensity during the day ahead.
“It cannot be emphasized enough that the most serious hazard associated with slow-moving Florence is extremely heavy rainfall, which will cause disastrous flooding that will be spreading inland through the weekend,” the latest update warned.
As of 5 a.m., the hurricane was turning westward and traveling at a speed of roughly 6 miles per hour. Over the next two to three days, it should gradually turn toward the northwest.
4:45 a.m.: People stranded on roofs and trapped in cars as eyewall nears coast
After slapping the coast overnight with powerful wind and dumping inches of rain, the outer bands of Hurricane Florence continued to push inland. At 4:00 a.m., the National Weather Service released an update on the storm, noting Florence’s eyewall was beginning to reach the coast.
“The water levels in Pamlico Sound and Emerald Isle remain elevated,” the update noted. “These waters are expected to rise as the tides come back in. A USGA gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently recorded 6.6 feet of inundation.”
On the ground, the situation remains serious as floodwaters continued to swallow up residential areas.
The Craven County emergency operations center has received over 100 calls from people who have been trapped in cars or who have water coming into their homes, spokeswoman Amber Parker said. Some area residents are currently trapped on roofs waiting for swift rescue teams to arrive as the area continues to experience extreme flooding, storm surge, and high winds. With a curfew in place until 8 a.m. and many roads in the area closed, people who are experiencing flooding in their homes have little other choice but to wait for help to arrive.
Michael Nelson floats in a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded his street in New Bern, N.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
New Bern is the largest city in Craven County and has been experiencing serious flooding, but many of the calls have also been coming in from unincorporated areas of the county, she said. Rescue operations are currently underway.
Parker noted that county officials had offered free transportation to emergency shelters located in Sanford, further inland, and that 107 people had taken the opportunity to get away from the coast. Another 839 people had arrived at shelters located in Craven County by 1 a.m., she said.
The emergency operations center in New Bern where Parker is based experienced some flooding earlier in the night, but only in the lobby area, she said. Emergency operations staff were unaffected, but are expecting to see plenty of damage when the sun comes up.
“Everyone’s certainly hoping for the best, but we do have a more flooding and storm surge ahead of us,” Parker said.
As of 4:19 a.m., National Weather Service stations in Fort Macon and near the New River inlet had both recorded gusts topping 100 mph. ABC reports that over 194,000 people are currently without power.
This is our garage floor. Where all the good junk everybody wants lives. . It’s toast.
Posted by Amy Powell Johnson on Thursday, September 13, 2018
— Kyle Swenson and Antonia Farzan
3 a.m.: Wind gusts of 99 mph
At 3:00 a.m. Friday, the National Hurricane Center released an update on Hurricane Florence showing increased winds battering the North Carolina coast.
According to the latest release, a station at Fort Macon, N.C., recently documented a sustained wind of 73 mph and a wind gust of 99 mph. A station at Cape Lookout, N.C., registered a sustained wind of 75 mph while also notching a gust at 90 mph.
— Kyle Swenson
3 a.m.: Storm bears down on North Carolina’s second-oldest city
As wind and water continued to pound the North Carolina coast Friday morning, one of the region’s most historically significant towns took a direct blow from Hurricane Florence.
New Bern, the state’s second-oldest city, sits where the Trent River pours into the Neuse River. That location made the town an important early settlement throughout the colonial period — but also today leaves it open to dangerous weather. Early Friday the city announced emergency crews were already embarking on high water rescues as 150 residents awaited help. As of 2:00 am, a USGS substation located in New Bern measured a water level of nearly 10 feet — double the readings at any surrounding location. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for a swath of coastal North Carolina — including New Bern — until 8:30 am.
The swelling water threatens a significant chunk of local history. According to the city’s website, New Bern has more than 150 sites and 36 individual listings included on the National Registry of Historic Places, including grand houses, churches, and cemeteries.
The first Europeans to bed down in the area were Swiss and Germans led by Baron Christopher de Graffenried in 1710. The baron named the new settled after his home city back in Switzerland. Under British rule, New Bern was made the colony’s capital in 1770.
The Tryon Palace Fife & Drum Corps march at The Glorious Fourth event held at the Tryon Palace historical site in New Bern, N.C., July 4, 2018. (Gray Whitley/ Sun Journal via AP)
The city was also an important chess piece during the Civil War, falling into Union occupation following a battle in 1862. Two years later, the city was the scene of a horrific yellow fever epidemic, according to a history published by the University of North Carolina.
New Bern greatest impact on the global scene was arguably as the birthplace of Pepsi. According to the university’s history, in 1898, a pharmacist named Caleb Bradham created the concoction — known as “Bred’s Drink” — to help stomach digestion. Financial duress forced Bradham to sell off the recipe in 1920.
Now it’s popular and picturesque southern town that draws thousands of tourists.
— Kyle Swenson
2:30 a.m.: Intense flooding continues in New Bern as 150 people await rescue.
At 2 a.m., Hurricane Florence was located 35 miles east of Wilmington, N.C., with sustained winds reaching up to 90 miles per hour. As the hurricane continued to slowly make its way over the North Carolina coast, it appeared that the town of New Bern was getting the worst of the flooding.
New Bern city officials announced on Twitter that roughly 150 people are currently awaiting rescue. Two out-of-state FEMA teams are currently assisting with the process and others are on the way to help with the emergency response, the statement said.
Currently ~150 awaiting rescue in New Bern. We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue. More are on the way to help us. WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. #FlorenceNC
— City of New Bern (@CityofNewBern) September 14, 2018
A gauge in the Trent River near U.S. Highway 70 in New Bern recorded 9.78 feet of inundation, the highest in the region. At Bogue Sound near North Carolina Highway 58 in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, more than 9 inches of rain had fallen in the past 6 hours, and water levels had risen by over 5 feet.
On MSNBC, New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw said that as many as 14,000 people in the town currently lack power. There have been “quite a few” water rescues, he said.
Across North Carolina, 185,312 people are currently without power, the state’s department of emergency management said. Carteret, Onslow and Craven counties, which are located on the southeastern coast, have reported the most outages.
In Onslow Bay, waves over 18 feet high were recorded by the National Data Buoy Center.
Earlier in the evening, meteorologists and reporters at NewsChannel 12 in New Bern, North Carolina were evacuated from the station due to rising waters. “When the conditions in the area intensified suddenly, we made the call to have our news staff evacuate the area and team up with our sister station WPDE in Myrtle Beach to continue covering the storm and providing our viewers with vital, potentially life-saving, information,” General Manager Matt Bowman said in a statement.
So that really did just happen. The water started rising and we evacuated almost an entire TV station in about 15 minutes.
— JaimeMcCutcheon-WCTI (@jaimemccutcheon) September 13, 2018
WRAL reporter Adam Owens captured floodwater pouring into the Craven County Emergency Services Building in New Bern, where operations staff and first responders are based during the storm. The emergency operations officials were still operating as normal, he wrote.
Flood water is getting into the Craven County Emergency Services Building in New Bern. Despite that, emergency officials are still able to operate inside. #WRAL #Florence #ncwx
Posted by WRAL Adam Owens on Thursday, September 13, 2018
— Antonia Farzan
As Hurricane Florence continues to batter coastal North Carolina, local communities are already reporting rescues as water levels continue to climb. On Facebook, the City of New Bern announced early Friday local police and fire and rescue teams are currently “conducting high water rescues throughout the city.”
The city also announced Trent Park Elementary School is serving as a location for “those needing to get evacuated.”
According to an update from the National Weather Service at 1:00 am, a gauge on the Neuse River at New Bern recently measured 10.1 feet of inundation. The new reading indicates a rise over the course of the night: at 12:00 am, the NWS reported 9.6 feet of inundation at New Bern.
— Kyle Swenson
12:30 a.m.: Intense flooding threatens the Carolina coast.
By midnight, areas of coastal North Carolina were experiencing life-threatening storm surge, the National Weather Service said. Multiple flash flood warnings were in place, affecting the cities of Wilmington and Rocky Point as well as communities along the state’s southeastern coast.
Sustained winds of 71 mph and gusts up to 87 mph have been recorded at Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Water levels along the Neuse River in New Bern have risen by nearly 10 feet.
— Antonia Farzan
11 p.m.: Florence downgraded to Category 1 hurricane.
As residents of the Carolinas hunkered down for the night, the National Hurricane Center continued to warn of life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions, but downgraded the storm to a Category 1 hurricane as top winds lessened to 90 mph. Along the Neuse River in Morehead City, North Carolina, storm surge of 10 feet was reported by the National Weather Service. The combination of the storm surge and rainfall up to 20 inches could have disastrous effects on the coastline.
Over 150,000 households in North Carolina have already lost power, according to the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management. Meanwhile, communities along the Pamlico and Pungo Rivers in eastern North Carolina are already experiencing significant flooding, National Weather Service officials said.
— Antonia Farzan
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