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"We face walls of water at our coasts, along our rivers, across our farmland, in our cities and in our towns".

WILMINGTON - Blowing ashore with howling 90 miles per hour winds, Hurricane Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster.

Meanwhile, the weather turned cloudy and windy in Charlotte, with a 24 miles per hour wind and gusts over 30 miles per hour, the National Weather Service reported.

Tropical Storm Florence is practically stalled over the Carolinas and the monster storm could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter).

Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia. In nearby Onslow County, three US Coast Guard helicopters were helping with rescue missions Saturday, officials said.

Forecasters say it is especially risky after dark because people trying to escape may not realize how deep flood water is on roads.

The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.

Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo.

People have left homes and taken precautions ahead of the hurricane. The flooding was caused by overflow from the Pungo River, she wrote. "We've spent a lot of time cleaning storm drains. We just want prayers from everyone".

A tornado watch was also in effect for parts of North Carolina.

"It's moving very, very slowly", the weather service's Baker said of the hurricane. "If you live in an area near a river, the peaks can occur much later".

The worst also is likely yet to come for Conway, about 15 miles inland from Myrtle Beach in neighboring SC. The flooding caused by the storm surge and heavy rain will take days or weeks to subside.

It is estimated to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina. The department, which did not release their names, said that the father of the child was transported to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center with injuries.

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In Hampstead, North Carolina, emergency responders going to a call for cardiac arrest found their path blocked by downed trees.

"We tell them to remain calm, not to panic, we will rescue them", Roberts said.

In South Carolina's Union County, a 61-year-old woman was killed Friday night when the auto she was driving struck a downed tree, state emergency management spokesman Antonio Diggs said.

A North Carolina city says about 70 people have been rescued from a hotel whose structural integrity is being threatened by Hurricane Florence. They later clarified those deaths were not related to Florence.

The rising sea crept toward the two-story home of Tom Copeland, who lives on a spit of land surrounded by water in Swansboro. CNN showed the scene, a small brick house. "The water started rising and we evacuated nearly an entire TV station in about 15 minutes".

"The sheer size of the tree was not something you could quickly cut with a chain saw", Mason said.

"It looks heavy outside", she said. "It's not the middle of a hurricane yet, so why not come for a beer?" said Waters, 54.

FEMA teams were employing boats in the rescues and were determining which cases were the most severe.

States of emergency have already been declared in both North and SC.

The National Hurricane Center is monitoring four other storm systems in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.

According to reports the cyclone has finally arrived on Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.

As it moves near OH and West Virginia, it will become a remnant low.


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