Mother, infant, among several killed by Hurricane Florence

Mother, infant, among several killed by Hurricane Florence

So if you find yourself here, please get out. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".

Among those volunteers was the Cajun Navy, a volunteer rescue organization formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Wilmington Police Department said that a mother and infant were killed when a tree fell on their house on Friday.

At 7.15am local time (12.15pm BST), hurricane Florence made landfall, with the eye of the storm hitting close to Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.

The biggest danger, as forecasters saw it, was not the wind but the water: the storm surge along the coastline and the prospect of 1 to 3½ feet of rain over the next several days that could trigger catastrophic flooding in a slow-motion disaster well inland.

"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. "It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave". "I have never seen a hurricane that is literally going to be with us for two days", he said.

New Bern appears to be one of the worst-hit areas, with a 10-and-a-half-foot storm surge and authorities reporting hundreds of water rescues Thursday night and Friday morning. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend. To the south, storm surge pushed water levels at Johnny Mercer Pier at Wrightsville Beach, where Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. with 90 miles per hour winds, to more than 8.5 feet.

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The storm is already causing power outages, with Duke Energy reporting almost 240,000 customers have lost power in North and SC - but projects 1 to 3 million people could lose power. Hurricane-force winds extended 130 kilometres from its centre, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 315 kilometres.

Screaming winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge whipped the Carolina coast to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

Storm surge has accounted for about half of the deaths in hurricanes since 1970, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated. It's also enough to cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water. Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers.

The NWS reported "lots of tree damage, debris and power lines down" across Harkers Island, N.C. Traffic lights out of order because of power failures swayed in the gusty wind.

The wind howled and sheets of rain splattered against windows of a hotel before dawn in Wilmington, where Sandie Orsa of Wilmington sat in a lobby lit by emergency lights after the power failed.

The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said people could still leave flood-prone areas. "We have two boats and all our worldly possessions", said Susan Patchkofsky, who refused her family's pleas to evacuate and stayed at Emerald Isle with her husband. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

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