Flood waters rise as Florence pummels Carolinas; at least 8 dead

US Tropical storm Florence batters North South Carolina leaving at least 11 dead

Boats lean against a tree on Saturday after flooding the day before pushed them there in New Bern North Carolina | AFP

Rescue workers rush a man to an ambulance after a giant tree fell on a house in Wilmington, N.C.as Hurricane Florence came ashore, September 14, 2018.

Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 1 to 3 1/2 feet (30 centimetres to 1 metre) as the storm crawls westward across North and SC could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.

Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach more than 360 people besieged by rising waters in New Bern, while many of their neighbours awaited help.

The death toll from tropical storm Florence that made landfall in the USA east coast, has increased to 13, with authorities warning of continued rains and flooding.

Photos and videos from around the region, and particularly North Carolina, showed the power that Florence contained as it came ashore, leading to rescues across the area.

The mother and her baby were killed in New Hanover County when a tree fell on their house, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told media late Friday.

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It was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina. In South Carolina , a 62-year-old woman died when her vehicle hit a tree that had fallen across a road in the town of Union.

A 77-year-old man was apparently knocked down by the wind and died after going out to check on his hunting dogs, Lenoir County authorities said.

Properties within one mile of the river were hastily evacuated on Saturday.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", he said.

As of 5 a.m. ET, top sustained winds had dropped to near 80 km/h with higher gusts, and Florence is expected to become a tropical depression later Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

According to a Brookings Institution article written in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which walloped southeast Texas in 2017, poor, minority families are more likely to live in low-lying neighborhoods like Hamlet that are already host to industrial facilities or environmental hazards - the same low-income neighborhoods that are far less likely to be inoculated from severe weather events.

-Intensity: Florence came ashore with top winds of 90 miles per hour (145 kph), below the 111 miles per hour (178 kph) threshold for a "major" hurricane but still extremely unsafe. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.

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More than 20,000 people are staying in 157 emergency shelters in North Carolina, Cooper said. Other communities got well over a foot (30 centimetres).

North Carolina has been declared a disaster zone, with flooding expected to worsen in some areas.

Florence plowed into the Carolinas, knocking down trees, gorging rivers, dumping sheets of rain as it lumbered slowly inland before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.

But for many residents in the low-income communities most threatened by the storm's wake of devastation, evacuation was never a possibility.

U.S. east coast communities face "epic amounts of rainfall" from tropical storm Florence, which has been linked to at least 12 deaths.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said radar and rain gauges indicated some areas got as much as 2½ feet of rain, which he called "absolutely staggering". That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimetres) of water, he calculated.

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Cline said July was the wettest ever in that part of North Carolina, and the water table rose 21 inches higher than normal. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines.

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