Florence rolls ashore in Carolinas, tears buildings apart
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Hurricane Florence lumbered ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, ripping apart buildings and knocking out power to a half-million homes and businesses as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.
More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders held out hope of being rescued.
Pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air.
More ominously, forecasters said the onslaught on the coast would last for hours and hours because Florence was creeping along at just 6 miles per hour and still drawing energy from the ocean.
There were no immediate reports of any deaths.
Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington, not far from the South Carolina line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Its storm surge and the prospect of 1 to 3½ feet of rain were considered a bigger threat than its winds, which dropped off from an alarming 140 miles per hour — Category 4 — earlier in the week.
Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls westward across the Carolinas all weekend.
Preparing for the aftermath, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters, and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm will eventually make a right hook to the northeast over the southern Appalachians, moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England as a tropical depression by the middle of next week.