Nearly 150 people trapped in New Bern, NC, as small city is battered by Florence

Nearly 150 people trapped in New Bern, NC, as small city is battered by Florence
Hurricane Florence makes landfall in North Carolina, with plenty of destruction and suffering ahead
Hurricane Florence is slowly tracking through southern North Carolina and continues to spread heavy rain and strong winds into the Carolinas, before kicking off an agonizing crawl through the Southeast into early next week, producing catastrophic inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds.

Florence made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina, at 7:15 a.m. EDT with maximum sustained winds around 90 mph.

CNNs Judson Jones, Kaylee Hartung, Chuck Johnston, AnneClaire Stapleton, John Berman, Michelle Krupa, Dianne Gallagher, Marnie Hunter, Dakin Andone, Amanda Jackson, Holly Yan and Michael Guy contributed to this report.

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.

(CNN)Hurricane Florence is inching along after making landfall in North Carolina, trapping people in flooded homes and promising days of destruction and human suffering to come.

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.

Hurricane Florence @ midnight 9.13.18Pungo River is raging across Belhaven, NCStay safe yall!

5 A.M. Update: Florence roars into Wilmington

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.

Video: Views of Hurricane Florence at Landfall

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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.”

An estimated 10 to 20 inches of rain has fallen across portions of coastal North Carolina as of early Friday.

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.

Schreiber, who works at the town post office, said their condo unit is on the second floor of a four-story building, so they can move up if the water continues to rise. They ultimately decided not to evacuate because they worried about not being able to get back, he said.

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.

“A lot of people did not get out, tried to drive out and a lot got stuck in conditions on the roads, so a lot of people we were rescuing from the tops of their vehicles,” Todd Terrell, founder of the Baton Rouge-based United Cajun Navy, said on “GMA.”

Video: Gas station canopy toppled by howling Hurricane Florence winds

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.

My people just informed me that this is one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast in many years. Also, looking like a direct hit on North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!

Here are the latest storm-surge inundation forecasts from the National Hurricane Center if the eye of Florence arrives at high tide:

"The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline," the NHC said. 

– 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

The storm is about 20 miles southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina and 55 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the NHC said Friday in an 11 a.m. ET advisory. 

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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.

Battering waves will ride atop the storm surge, inflicting more damage to structures near the water as the hurricane arrives.

According to radar images as of 7 a.m., the storm’s eye was drawing near the New Hanover-Pender County line. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office are waiting for the National Hurricane Center to confirm the track of the eyewall, which typically has the storm’s strongest winds.

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. 

“We’ve got to quickly understand the damage that’s been done to the transportation systems, the communication systems, the power systems, and we are positioning, and have bene positioned for multiple days now, to get those critical lifelines back up and stable as quickly as we can,” he said.

LIVE: South Carolina Governor Gives Update on Hurricane Florence Preparations at 2:30 PM

– High-Impact Rainfall: Florence will produce high-end flash flooding between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Morehead City, North Carolina.

Video: Hurricane Florence`s winds and rain begin lashing Carolinas

Florence could flood Prestages hog manure pits in 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."

That heavy rain threat may last for days into early next week in some areas, given Florence's slow movement.

Corps staff worked with Army officials to review dams at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Jackson in South Carolina to “ensure any effects of Florence on those dams are mitigated,” said Ray Alexander, the Corps’ inter-agency services chief.

The Weather Channels Simulation of What Flooding Really Looks Like Is Both Frightening and Impressive

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.

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How storm surges build up, destroy and kill

According to the National Hurricane Center, Florence is expected to produce the following rainfall totals:

US coast battered by wind, rain as Hurricane Florence closes in

– 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.

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst Tweeted, Watch out, America! #HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km directly above the eye.

– 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.

Florence is expected to strike North Carolinas coast on Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday, according to Miamis National Hurricane Center (NHC).

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.

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– 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.

Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.

Hurricane Florence Expected to Drop 50 Percent More Rain Due to Climate Change

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch for parts of North Carolina until 5 p.m. EDT.

Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City. Some of the few people still left in Nags Head on the Outer Banks took photos of angry waves topped with white froth. By early afternoon, utilities reported about 12,000 homes and businesses had lost power.

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.

Forecasters said that given the storms size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial waste sites and hog-manure ponds.

Winds were gusting as high as 99 mph at Fort Macon, North Carolina and sustained winds are blowing at 73 mph early Friday.

Forecasters European climate model is predicting 2 trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of Thats enough water to fill the Empire State Building nearly 40,000 times.

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.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first responders are supplied and ready, and he disputed the official conclusion that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

We will have catastrophic effects | Gov. Cooper warns NC to not let guard down

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.

There continues to be overwash of the dunes at the "S" curves on Highway 12 near Rodanthe in the Outer Banks.

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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.

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