Weather

The Latest: North Carolina city gets 23 inches of rain

Florence downgraded to tropical storm

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Florence (all times local):

10 p.m.

One city in North Carolina has picked up more than 23 inches (58 centimeters) of rain in two days from Tropical Storm Florence.

The National Weather Service said on Twitter on Friday night that Morehead City had received 23.04 inches of rain with more heavy rain coming.

Forecasters have issued what they call a flash flood emergency, saying areas of surrounding Carteret County are flooding that have never flooded before.

Forecasters say it is especially dangerous after dark because people trying to escape may not realize how deep flood water is on roads.

Officials recommend anyone whose home starts to flood get to the highest point they can and call 911.

About 500 people had to be rescued in flooding early Friday in New Bern, which is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Morehead City.

Forecasters say an additional 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain is possible through the night.

8 p.m.

The sheriff of a North Carolina county hit by Florence says four men are charged with break-ins that happened after residents evacuated.

Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram tells news outlets the break-ins happened Thursday. He says two men are charged with possession of burglary tools and breaking and entering of a convenience store in Leland. Two other men are charged with breaking or entering of a motor vehicle.

Ingram says deputies will do everything they can to lock up people who “prey upon the citizens of Brunswick County.”

Ingram says officials made sure ahead of time to have “adequate (jail) space for anybody that wanted to try that.”

The center of Tropical Storm Florence has moved into South Carolina, and both it and North Carolina continue to face powerful winds and catastrophic flooding.

Florence’s top sustained winds remain at 70 mph (110 kph) as it crawls west at just 3 mph (6 kph).

At 8 p.m. Friday, Florence was centered about 15 miles (25 kilometers) north-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east-southeast of Florence, South Carolina.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometers) from its center. The National Hurricane Center says a sustained wind of 55 mph (89 kph) and a gust to 68 mph (109 kph) were reported in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

7:15 p.m.

Dozens of people in the North Carolina town of Belhaven had to be rescued from the rising waters of Pungo River and a creek that together hem in the sea-level community.

The downtown area including the municipal building and nearby homes were swamped, starting with the high tide on Thursday evening. Roads into the town of about 1,500 people remained submerged Friday, forcing the retreat of a county ambulance truck and an electricity company repair vehicle that tried to enter from the east and west along the town’s main road.

Mayor Ricky Credle was holed up at the municipal building Friday afternoon. He says the town is “closed off” amid the highest water downtown that he had ever seen.

Credle says the sheriff’s department used a high-axle truck to rescue some residents who wanted to leave, dropping them off at Red Cross shelters.

7 p.m.

Officials at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington have announced the school will remain closed until further notice because of the effects of Hurricane Florence.

A memo sent out to school personnel Friday said officials “cannot yet effectively or comprehensively assess the impact on our campus.” Because of that, the school said it is unable to determine when it will resume the fall semester. The school will remain closed until further notice.

The memo said the school will give students and employees as much notice as possible before it reopens, giving weight to travel challenges and other factors. Officials said they can’t determine how the closure will affect the academic calendar.

4:50 p.m.

Forecasters say Florence is now a tropical storm but will continue to threaten North and South Carolina with powerful winds and catastrophic freshwater flooding.

Its top sustained winds have dropped to 70 mph (110 kph), and it’s at a near standstill, moving west at just 3 mph (6 kph).

At 5 p.m., Florence was centered about 50 miles (75 kilometers) west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 25 miles (45 kilometers) northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometers) from its center. The National Hurricane Center says Florence is producing tropical storm-force wind gusts in Florence, South Carolina, about 60 miles from the coast.

4:25 p.m.

South Carolina’s most popular tourist destination is riding out Hurricane Florence without major problems so far.

In North Myrtle Beach, rain has been falling nearly all day and tree branches and limbs are on some roads. The power is out on the main strip, but almost no vehicles are on the six-lane highway through the center of town other than police.

North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling says three-quarters of the area’s 37,000 electric customers are without power.

To the south, Myrtle Beach was faring better. Power outages were spotty, and Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea says no significant property damage has been reported.

No areas in South Carolina reported problems with surge from the ocean as winds continued from the land pushing water away.

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4:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is preparing to travel to areas affected by Hurricane Florence next week.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump will travel to the region “early to middle of next week.”

She adds his trip will take place “once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts.”

Aides say Trump has been monitoring the massive storm from the White House, and he has taken to Twitter to encourage those in its path to listen to their local authorities for how best to remain safe.

The storm, blamed for at least three fatalities, has inundated parts of the Carolina coast with heavy rain and high winds.

3:05 p.m.

At least four people have been killed as Hurricane Florence drenches the Carolinas.

The Wilmington Police Department said Friday that two people -- a mother and her infant child -- were killed when a tree fell on their house. The father was transported to a hospital for treatment. No other information was given.

Officials also said a person was killed in Lenoir County while plugging in a generator and that a woman died after suffering a heart attack Pender County. 

The hurricane came ashore early Friday, pounding the state with torrential rain and high winds.

Forecasters have been predicting catastrophic flash flooding. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says more than 16 inches of rain have fallen at locations in southeast North Carolina and another 20 to 25 inches is on the way.

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1:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service says 14 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen north of Swansboro, North Carolina and it’s only going to get worse.

Weather Prediction Center senior forecaster David Roth said catastrophic flash flooding is expected to continue to worsen Friday.

He said that the heavy rainfall for southeast North Carolina is only one-third to one-quarter the way over.

“Plenty of heavy rain remains in the future for this region,” Roth wrote in the weather center’s rain forecast discussion.

1 p.m.

Flights are grounded at several airports in the Southeast as Hurricane Florence barges through the region.

By midday Friday, airlines had canceled more than 2,100 U.S. flights from the storm’s approach on Wednesday through Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware.

The region’s two largest airports, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, had more than 200 cancellations on Friday. That’s about half the flights in Raleigh and one in eight at Charlotte.

That’s not much compared with last year’s Hurricane Harvey, which flooded runways at two major airports and caused airlines to scrub more than 11,000 flights in Houston alone.

The Federal Aviation Administration says Charleston International Airport in South Carolina isn’t expected to reopen until Monday night. Wilmington International in North Carolina expects to reopen at noon Saturday.

12:25 p.m.

Florence’s total rainfall will likely be staggeringly huge.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue (MOW-ee) of weathermodels.com calculates that Hurricane Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain in seven days over the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.

That doesn’t quite measure up to the 25 trillion gallons Harvey dropped on Texas and Louisiana last year. Maue says Harvey stalled longer and stayed closer to the coast, which enabled it to keep sucking moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Still, 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay. It’s enough to cover the entire state of Texas with nearly four inches (10 centimeters) of water.

That much rain is 2.4 trillion cubic feet (68 billion cubic meters). It’s enough to cover Manhattan with nearly 3,800 feet (1.1 kilometers) of water, more than twice as high as the island’s tallest building.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough rain to cover the Tar Heel state in about 10 inches (25 centimeters) of water.

Maue calculates that 34 million people will get at least 3 inches, with more than 5.7 million getting at least a foot and about 1.5 million getting 20 inches or more.

11:55 a.m.

U.S. immigration officials say they won’t do any active enforcement during evacuations or in shelters during Hurricane Florence.

Homeland Security officials say Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are focused on the preservation of life and safety.

The Trump administration has stepped up arrests of people living in the country illegally, but during this storm they say they won’t enforce immigration laws unless there’s a serious public safety threat.

Immigration officers have been dispatched to help with response and recovery as Florence lashes North and South Carolina with life-threatening winds, rain and floods.

But Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says saving lives is the priority, and anyone fearing for their safety should call 911 for help. Federal officials say they don’t want people to fear going to shelters.

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11:45 a.m.

North Carolina officials say parts of the state could experience a once-in-a-millennia flood as Hurricane Florence dumps rain for days to come.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday that Florence is “wreaking havoc” and he’s concerned “whole communities” could be wiped away.

He said parts of the state have seen storm surges as high as 10 feet.

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said the state is expecting 1,000-year “flood events” in areas between Wilmington and Charlotte.

Cooper said the state hasn’t seen any Florence-related fatalities so far, but he’s concerned about people’s safety as the storm continues.

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11 a.m.

Forecasters say the center of Hurricane Florence is hovering just inland near Cape Fear, North Carolina.

It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), but stronger wind gusts have been reported.

At 11 a.m., Florence was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was crawling west-southwest at 3 mph (6kph), lifting huge amounts of ocean moisture and dumping it far from the coast.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles (315 km).

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10:40 a.m.

Rising water forced a North Carolina TV station to evacuate its newsroom in the middle of Hurricane Florence coverage.

Hours before the storm made landfall Friday, workers at New Bern’s WCTI-TV NewsChannel 12 had to abandon their studio.

A spokesperson for the ABC affliciate said roads around the building were flooding.

The weater service later measured a storm surge 10 feet deep in the city, which lies on the Neuse River near the Atlantic coast. It’s about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Wrightsville Beach, where Florence made landfall at 7:15 a.m. Friday.

Video posted on Twitter showed a meteorologist telling viewers they’d be taken to coverage from sister station WPDE in Myrtle Beach.

Just after midnight, the station tweeted that everyone had safely evacuated.


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