Hurricane Florence lashing Carolinas with heavy rain, flooding

Gov. Roy Cooper urged state residents to stay on guard despite Florence's projected southwestern storm track.

In Morehead City, the rain and surf pounded the shoreline and took aim at the few boats still in the water.

A weather station in Atlantic Beach recorded a total of 12.73 inches for a 24-hour period.

Coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely empty, and schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia.

Meteorologist say conditions will deteriorate throughout the day Friday.

A wind gust at the Wilmington airport was clocked at 105 miles per hour (nearly 170 kph), the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958.

Holt, who has diabetes and clogged arteries, said she stayed for doctor's appointments that were canceled at the last minute.

Florence is expected to turn west and then north moving through the Carolinas and the Ohio Valley by Monday, the hurricane center said.

Even though Florence has weakened to Category 2, it will contain a storm surge more like a major hurricane thanks to its massive size and slow movement.

"While we expect an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 40 inches of rain, extensive inland flooding and storm surge flooding from Florence, Hurricane Harvey unleashed more than 60 inches of rain locally centered around the United States' fourth largest city, Houston, which has a population of 2.3 million", AccuWeather Founder and President Dr. Joel N. Myers said.

In was 1989 when Hurricane Hugo pummeled the Carolinas, causing tremendous destruction - killing 21 people in the USA and 29 in the Caribbean and leaving behind an estimated US$8 billion in damage.

The NHC said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as Florence neared shore and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said the heavy rain could trigger landslides in the west of his state. If it is bowl-shaped, like in Georgia and SC, the surge is deeper, but when it is the opposite shape, like the Outer Banks, it's less so, Needham said.

"There is some damage. but it is still standing strong".

He said the region could see long-term damage to its water quality from the animal waste that gets caught up in the flood.

Schleifstein's warning follows various reports of residents refusing to evacuate as the storm approaches.

Cheryl Browning lives with her husband and son, who has terminal cancer, in Richlands, North Carolina.

Soren Rundquist, Environmental Working Group's director of spatial analysis, said if the rainfall projections hold up, the flood waters will simply take what was sprayed on the fields with them, along with what spills out of the pits.

"A curfew is the right thing for our community", said New Hanover County manager Chris Coudriet.

Maysie Baumgardner, 7, and her family sheltered at the Hotel Ballast in downtown Wilmington as Florence filled the streets with floodwaters. "He is the only caregiver to me and my son", Browning said.

Meanwhile, down by Cape Fear, Burdette, who goes by the moniker "Riverkeeper", said he was "bracing for catastrophic impact" in the wake of Florence. It's a kind gesture but doesn't alleviate Browning's fear.

"The infrastructure is going to break", he said. "But I think it'll be OK".

When staff realized a nearby Bojangles would stay open, NBC's Matt Bradley says, they opened back up.

"With the extreme storm surge along the coast, rivers will start to overflow".

More than 1 in 4 deaths in hurricanes come from inland flooding, which often catches people by surprise, as it can occur several hundred miles from landfall. "Please keep that in mind", and consider leaving soon, Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said midmorning Thursday. North Carolina will likely see eight months' worth of rain in two to three days, said National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear in a video briefing.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference, that a "historic storm" would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state. "Tens of thousands of structures are expected to be flooded, and many more by rising rivers and creeks".