Florence made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina, at 7:15 a.m. EDT with maximum sustained winds around 90 mph.
Video: Hurricane Florence starts lashing North Carolina coast
The eyewall, the worst part of Florence, is near the coast of southeastern North Carolina and is only the beginning of what could be a record-wet siege from a tropical cyclone in parts of the Tar Heel State.
As of 12 p.m. EDT, Florence is located about 25 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and is expected to have a slow erratic motion between westward and west-southwestward into Friday evening.
Steering currents have fallen apart allowing Florence to slow down tremendously as it drifts toward the coast of the Carolinas.
Gradual weakening is expected on Friday with significant weakening over the weekend as it moves farther inland.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency due to Florence, which made landfall with 9 mph winds in Wrightsville Beach shortly after 7 a.m. local time Friday. The storm is moving slowly — just 6 mph — in a southwest direction and is expected to reach South Carolina by early Saturday morning, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.
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Extreme rainfall is already occurring in eastern North Carolina. A flash flood emergency was issued for portions of Carteret, Craven, Pamlico and Jones counties due to a combination of storm surge and heavy rainfall. This flash flood emergency includes New Bern and Morehead City.
“They just have to wait until the weather conditions permit them to make it here safely,” she added. “I dont have the follow-up information on all of the calls. There are some that I know we have made it to and others where theyve been rescued by other agencies or individuals — private citizens who have rescued some people.”
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An estimated 10 to 20 inches of rain has fallen across portions of coastal North Carolina as of early Friday.
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Water levels remain elevated in Pamlico Sound in North Carolina and a gauge in Emerald Isle recorded a 7.0-foot surge Friday morning. A 10.1-foot storm surge was recorded very early Friday in New Bern.
Video: Florence about to make landfall in North Carolina causing dangerous flooding
Friday morning, Wilmington, North Carolina, recorded a wind gust to 105 mph, the second strongest wind on record here. A wind gust to 100 mph was reported at Cape Fear, North Carolina earlier Friday and a buoy about 50 miles to the east of the center of Florence's eye reported a wind gust to 112 mph.
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Hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings remain posted near and inland from the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina.
– Storm-Surge Impact: A destructive storm surge accompanied the eye coming ashore Friday, and coastal flooding may persist through multiple high-tide cycles into this weekend east of the center of Florence. All evacuation orders from local officials should be followed because of this dangerous threat. Significant beach erosion is also likely on the southeastern U.S. coast. Elevated water levels may persist for some time after landfall in areas where onshore winds persist.
Here are the latest storm-surge inundation forecasts from the National Hurricane Center if the eye of Florence arrives at high tide:
– Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, including the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay rivers: 7 to 11 feet, with locally higher amounts possible- Cape Lookout, North Carolina, to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina: 6 to 9 feet- South Santee River, South Carolina, to Cape Fear, North Carolina: 4 to 6 feet- Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, to Salvo, North Carolina: 4 to 6 feet- Salvo, North Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina: 2 to 4 feet- Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to the South Santee River, South Carolina: 2 to 4 feet
“We call them disasters because they break things,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long told reporters while Florence was bearing down on the coastline. “The infrastructure is going to break. … The power is going to go out. It could be out for a number of days.”
A record tide level was set at Beaufort, North Carolina, very early Friday, topping levels seen during Hazel (1954) and Floyd (1999), among others, with a reading of 7.28 feet.
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Battering waves will ride atop the storm surge, inflicting more damage to structures near the water as the hurricane arrives.
Tidal flooding will also occur with high tide as far north as the southern Chesapeake Bay, including along the tidal James River and Potomac River near the bay. The highest tides will occur late Friday morning into Friday afternoon.
Craven County spokeswoman Amber Parker told the Durham Herald-Sun the rescues began around 4 p.m. Thursday. She added that water in some places surpassed mailboxes and had reached the second story of homes in low-lying areas.
– High-Impact Rainfall: Florence will produce high-end flash flooding between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Morehead City, North Carolina.
The National Hurricane Center noted that "life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern and central Appalachians late this week into early next week."
At least 150 people were awaiting rescue in New Bern early Friday morning as Hurricane Florence lashed the North Carolina coast with strong winds and life-threatening storm surge.
That heavy rain threat may last for days into early next week in some areas, given Florence's slow movement.
Disastrous flooding is expected in some areas, not simply near the coastal Carolinas where the heaviest rain totals are forecast, but also in the Appalachians where heavy rain over mountainous terrain is likely to trigger mudslides and rockslides. See the link below for more information.
We miss the energy our passengers bring to #iflyCHS. It is quiet now but our teams are working hard to keep the airport safe and are committed to reopening as soon as possible after #Florence passes. We encourage everyone to stay safe until we see you again. pic.twitter.com/iTZkTy36LD
5 p.m. update: Florence slows as it moves within 100 miles of Wilmington
According to the National Hurricane Center, Florence is expected to produce the following rainfall totals:
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– Coastal North Carolina into far northeastern South Carolina: an additional 20 to 25 inches, with isolated totals up to 40 inches- Rest of South Carolina and North Carolina into southwestern Virginia: 5 to 10 inches, with isolated totals up to 15 inches
The runoff from these incredible rainfall totals will continue for days, and then will enter the riverways of the Carolinas. Flooding may swell these watersheds for weeks, if not months.
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– Wind Impact: Hurricane-force winds (74-plus mph) are occurring over portions of coastal North Carolina and are expected to spread across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina through Friday. Tropical-storm-force winds (39-plus mph) are expected to spread inland across the remainder of the warning area through Saturday. Numerous downed trees and long-lasting power outages could occur near and inland from where the center of Florence strikes.
Hurricane Florence's storm surge started flooding New Bern Thursday afternoon. As of 6:30 a.m. Friday morning, around 200 people had already been rescued, according to Colleen Roberts, public information officer with the city of New Bern.
This threat of tree damage and power outages may also extend across Florence's larger swath of tropical-storm-force winds and may last for an extended period of time into this weekend. Structural damage to homes and buildings is possible, particularly where the core of any hurricane-force winds moves through.
"911 is working. People can call 911, they are being answered. A lot of folks are using social media and we're responding as quickly as we can on that."
Water — not wind — is the deadliest storm hazard
– Tornadoes: A few tornadoes are possible in eastern and southeastern North Carolina through Friday. These tornadoes should be weak and short-lived but could add to damage caused by rainfall or straight-line hurricane winds.
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NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch for parts of North Carolina until 5 p.m. EDT.
Wind gusts reached as high as 106 mph at Cape Lookout, North Carolina, late Thursday evening while a 105-mph gust was reported at Fort Macon, North Carolina.
Winds were gusting as high as 99 mph at Fort Macon, North Carolina and sustained winds are blowing at 73 mph early Friday.
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Sustained winds of 79 mph were recently reported in Davis, North Carolina, while a 77-mph sustained wind was recorded at Fort Macon, North Carolina.
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As of 12 p.m. Friday, Oriental, North Carolina, reported 18.53 inches of rainfall, while Swansboro, North Carolina has measured 14.25 inches of rain. Over 12 inches of rainfall has been reported near Calabash, North Carolina, with over 10 inches of rainfall near Surf City, North Carolina and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
On Thursday night, a storm surge of 10 feet above normal levels was reported by the National Weather Service office in Morehead City, North Carolina, at the Cherry Branch Ferry Terminal on the Neuse River, courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
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A gauge at Oriental, North Carolina, on the Neuse River recorded a water height of about 6 feet above normal tide levels late Thursday.
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There continues to be overwash of the dunes at the "S" curves on Highway 12 near Rodanthe in the Outer Banks.
Florence pounds the Carolinas
Tropical Depression Six formed late on Aug. 31, then was named Tropical Storm Florence the next day in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean.
On Sept. 5, Florence became a Category 4 hurricane after rapidly intensifying over the open Atlantic Ocean.
Florence underwent rapid intensification a second time Sunday into Monday, when its winds jumped up from 75 mph to 130 mph in just 25 hours ending 12 p.m. EDT Monday.