At least 150 residents in New Bern, North Carolina, were still waiting to be rescued as Hurricane Florence made landfall, forcing a life-threatening storm surge of floodwater inland and shredding structures in its path.
“We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue. More are on the way to help us. WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU,” authorities in New Bern tweeted at 8:27 a.m. on Sept. 14.
“You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU.”
Currently ~150 awaiting rescue in New Bern. We have 2 out-of-state FEMA teams here for swift water rescue. More are on the way to help us. WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU. #FlorenceNC
— City of New Bern (@CityofNewBern) September 14, 2018
Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington, as the center of its eye moved onshore, the National Hurricane Center said.
By about 5 a.m. on Friday, some 200 people had already been rescued been rescued, according to Colleen Roberts, a city public information officer, Fox News reported.
Craven County spokeswoman Amber Parker told ABC News that some people were trapped on their roofs. “I would say certain areas of New Bern are very desperate,” ABC reported.
New Bern was one of the first cities affected by storm surge floodwaters after the Neuse River overflowed, flooding parts of the town. A gauge on the river had already recorded 10 feet of inundation, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
No Reports of Storm-Related Deaths
The storm’s maximum sustained winds held at about 90 mph, and it appeared that the north side of the eye was the most dangerous place to be as Florence moved ashore.
A gust of 105 mph was recorded at Wilmington Airport, surpassing the power of Hurricane Fran two decades ago.
There were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries but more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse, local officials said.
Reports have been received of major structural damage to homes and businesses in Onslow County, according to The Weather Channel.
Over 20 inches of rain had fallen on Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach, both in Carteret County, by Friday morning.
Hurricane Florence is set to inundate almost all of North Carolina in several feet of water, Gov. Roy Cooper told a news conference, while National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear predicted up to eight months’ worth of rain in two or three days.
Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and its restoration could take weeks.
More Than 500,000 Power Outages
Coastal streets flowed with frothy ocean water, and more than 500,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the nation’s electrical grid.
“A life-threatening storm surge is already occurring along portions of the North Carolina coast and will continue through today and tonight,” the NHC said in an alert posted at 5 a.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 14.
“This surge is also likely along portions of the South Carolina coast,” the warning continues.
“The greatest storm surge inundation is expected between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, including the Neuse and Pamlico rivers and western Pamlico Sound.”
The NHC also warns of “life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding” through early next week.
“Damaging hurricane-force winds are occurring along portions of the North Carolina coast and are expected to spread to portions of the South Carolina coast” later on Friday it said..
The alert also cautions against the presence of large swells affecting Bermuda, portions of the U.S. east coast, and the northwestern and central Bahamas, “resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents.”
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than a million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, jamming westbound roads and highways for miles.
Roads and intersections on North Carolina’s Outer Banks barrier islands were inundated.
At least 12,000 people have taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters with more facilities being opened.
The NHC said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said the heavy rain could trigger landslides in the west of his state.
Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian Mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.