Florence dumps heavy rain on Carolinas, kills 7

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.

North Carolina utilities have estimated that as many as 2.5 million state residents could be left without power, the state's Department of Public Safety said.

In New Bern, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000.

"What's concerning about this event is because of the continuous rain, no one can send crews out to start repairs until the storm has really passed".

Early on Friday, South Carolina emergency officials said there was still time, "but not a lot of time" for people to leave flood-prone areas.

Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain.

Florence peaked at a terrifying Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm ocean water before making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the SC line.

The Miami-based center had said earlier Friday Florence's arrival would come with "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over portions of the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest Florence update at 10am BST that a storm surge warning remained in effect for Myrtle Beach in SC to the Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina, and for Pamlico Sound.

Parts of North and SC were forecast to get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).

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But it still brought torrential rain.

Their predictions call for moderate flooding at 43 rivers in North Carolina and SC within the next 12 hours.

"We anticipate Hurricane Florence to be a historic storm that will impact all customers", a company spokesperson told Reuters.

Authorities warned, too, of risks of mudslides and environmental disasters from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

FEMA, the agency in charge of coordinating the federal response to Florence, was criticized previous year for its handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

National Hurricane Center: Florence about to make landfall in N. Carolina causing life-threatening storm surge. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 10 centimetres of water, he calculated. In neighboring SC, 165,000 customers are without power, officials said.

As of 6 a.m., Florence was 10 miles (20 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Eudy and his family stayed home in New Bern partly to protect their house. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".

FEMA teams were employing boats in the rescues and were determining which cases were the most severe. "I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me", she said.

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