Hurricane Florence is being blamed for taking several lives in North Carolina, including that of a woman and infant child who were killed when a massive tree crashed through their modest brick home early Friday. The father was hospitalized with injuries. Officials also said one person was electrocuted in Lenoir County while plugging in a generator in the rain, and a man died after being blown to the ground while checking on his hunting dogs.
By early afternoon, its winds had weakened to 75 miles per hour, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm's terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 miles per hour earlier in the week.
Police said 150 to 200 residents have been rescued earlier on Friday and 150 or more were still awaiting rescue.
Kevin Knox and his family were rescued from their flooded brick home with the help of Army Sgt. Johan Mackie, whose team used a phone app to locate people in distress.
Southeastern coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC could see 20 to 30 inches of rainfall; some isolated areas could see 40 inches.
In Cumberland County, two people died after their home caught on fire. By late afternoon, Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood hoped the worst was over.
Maluyo said local and national governments have been preparing for the storm since Monday, with school and offices closing down. The Virginia National Guard has 1,200 personnel ready to respond for missions including high water transportation, debris reduction, commodity distribution, shelter management assistance and search and rescue.
Still, North Carolina has fewer flood-prone hog farms than it did when Hurricane Floyd inundated about 50 sites in 1999 and sparked statewide reforms.
To compliment the supplies the government is giving evacuees, World Vision has also prepared hygiene kits that are filled with laundry soaps, toiletries, blankets, mosquito nets and plastic mats for the approximate 4,000 families fleeing the storm.
Populated coastline: 11 million Americans live in areas under storm watches and warnings. Though forecasters later downgraded Florence to a tropical storm, the monster system is barely moving over the Carolinas and could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter).
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. "Houses. Trees", Holt said.
Almost 9,00,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016 - North Carolina's last major hurricane - the state counted 4,071 people in 109 shelters. "All that water that piles up in the hills and mountains, drains down into the river valley, so we're talking flash flooding".
"It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave", said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled. While it had weakened significantly since peaking as a Category 5 storm in the Atlantic, the heavy rain bands and slow movement have caused catastrophic flooding and storm surge along the coast. In Belhaven, the rising Pungo River almost swallowed the first floor of a house.
Scientists can't say - yet - that climate change helped make Florence worse.
Meanwhile, many were experiencing a complete blackout as the storm damaged infrastructure, utility poles and transmission lines.
Emergency crews were stretched thin.