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.
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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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The original death toll was put in double digits, but recently a new study placed the "official" count at just short of 3,000. The report compared predicted mortality under normal circumstances and deaths documented after Maria.
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.
Gov. McMaster cautions SC residents as Hurricane Florence moves toward state
Cooper cited a National Weather Service forecast that said almost the entire state could be covered in several feet of water. Governor Cooper advised North Carolina residents inland that rivers will rise days after the rain has stopped.
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.