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Slow-moving Florence batters NC with heavy flooding, power outages

Jane Stancill, Lynn Bonner and Tammy Grubb, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in News & Features

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hurricane Florence delivered a slow-motion assault to the coast of North Carolina early Friday, with catastrophic storm surge and torrential rains that will continue for days.

The storm made landfall at Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. But Florence, a Category 1 hurricane when it hit, already had pounded coastal areas for hours.

The enormous storm crept at a 6 mph pace, making it clear that the trouble was just beginning.

By 5 a.m., about 200 people had been rescued from flooded homes in New Bern, where the National Weather Service reported 10 feet of inundation. People were stuck in their cars, attics and rooftops, waiting for rescuers in boats. A woman named Bree tweeted: "If anybody could help ... our cars is under water and so is our house stuck in attic. Phone about to die please send help to 611 Watson ave, new bern. NC"

A friend later tweeted that the woman and her family had been rescued.

That kind of scenario is likely to repeat itself all over communities in Eastern North Carolina, as swollen rivers flood towns and the pouring rain adds to the misery.

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The National Hurricane Center described Florence's path as a wobble around southeastern North Carolina.

But the size of the storm meant the path didn't really matter. Hurricane-force winds were extending out up to 80 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 195 miles, the center said.

Rescue crews in Onslow County helped evacuate 70 people from a Jacksonville hotel early Friday after the roof collapsed and rain rushed in.

Onslow County spokesman Cornelius Jordan said some visitors at the Triangle Motor Inn were able to drive away on their own, but emergency personnel had to take others to a safe location. Emergency crews also rescued an Onslow family from their home where a tree fell through the roof, Jordan said.

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