RALEIGH: Dangerous conditions from Hurricane Florence have already claimed three lives and Governor Roy Cooper is urging people to remain vigilant by seeking safe shelter and heeding warnings from emergency officials.
According to authorities, one person was killed in Lenoir County while plugging in a generator. Two people were killed in New Hanover County when a tree fell on a home.
“Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this storm,” Governor Cooper said. “Hurricane Florence is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days. Be extremely careful and stay alert.”
Torrential rains, punishing surge and fierce winds caused issues throughout the night and into the morning across much of the eastern and central parts of the state. Weather alerts including flash flood and tornado watches and warnings have been posted across the coast and inland.
Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach about 7:15 a.m. Friday as a Category 1 hurricane (74-95 mph). The storm was moving very slowly westward at about 6 mph. It was expected to continue to grind westward and slow down even further. Wind gusts of 105 mph – the highest recorded since 1958 -- were reported in Wilmington Friday morning. Hurricane force winds were being felt in an 80-mile radius from the center of the storm. Tropical storm force winds were being felt 195 miles from the center of Florence.
2:54 p.m. Friday, Duke Energy, Dominion and electric cooperatives reported that 643,523 homes were without power in North Carolina.
At least 100 rescues have been made in hard-hit New Bern, and that figure is expected to climb. Officials in New Bern Friday morning reported storm surge as high as 10 feet. In New Bern, the dangerous conditions prompted officials in the coastal city to place the city under 24-hour curfew at 7 a.m. Friday.
Rain is forecast to continue through the weekend, bringing dangerous flooding conditions to many areas of North Carolina. Forecasters are predicting that the Lumber and Cape Fear rivers will crest significantly higher than after Hurricane Matthew, and in some areas Florence will bring 1,000-year rainfall totals.
Significant flooding was being reported Friday along the Neuse, Pamlico and Pungo rivers in coastal North Carolina due to storm surge. Those conditions were expected to worsen significantly.
“We are expecting several more days of rain,” Cooper said. “Our focus now is getting people away from immediate danger. And then it will shift to putting our communities back together.”
As the storm moves across the southeastern part of the state toward the mountains, Cooper reminded North Carolinians to follow common-sense tips to stay safe and remember to:
- Stay indoors during the hurricane and stay away from windows and glass doors, and keep curtains and blinds closed.
- Never drive through standing or moving water.
- Never operate a generator indoors.
- Don’t fly drones in affected areas as this can impede efforts of rescue helicopters.
Twenty-one roads were reported closed in 12 counties at 10 a.m. Friday, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. Highways and secondary road closures were reported throughout eastern North Carolina. Those roads included Interstate 40 in Duplin County; N.C. 12 in Dare, Hyde and Carteret counties; N.C. 130 in Brunswick County; N.C. 55 in Craven and Pamlico counties; N.C. 58 in Carteret and Jones counties; and N.C. 904 in Brunswick County. Other counties reporting road closures were Beaufort and Pitt. For the latest traffic conditions and road closures, visit www.DriveNC.gov.
More than 21,000 people have taken refuge at 157 shelters open across the state. Thirty-five shelters accept pets. As the need arises, state and local emergency management officials are working to set up even more shelters where people can stay safe during and after the storm. Other evacuees are sheltering with family and friends or in hotels.
2-1-1 Call Line Open 24/7 for People in Need of Help
The statewide information line can provide callers with nearby shelter, housing and other storm-related details. Dial 2-1-1 or 888-892-1162, or text Florence to 898211. The information line is staffed around the clock to connect North Carolinians to storm resources.
Governor Cooper has activated more than 2,800 National Guard soldiers to preserve life and safety, provide clearance of roads, and support communications and logistics. North Carolina Emergency Management and FEMA have staged supplies and equipment strategically to respond to the storm, and first responders across the state are ready. Additional emergency personnel from 22 states have arrived in North Carolina to assist with the storm, including swift water rescue teams, emergency medical personnel, and others.
Schools, Universities and State Parks, Museums, and Attractions Closed for Safety
Across North Carolina, more than 65 school districts are closed, and nearly all University of North Carolina system schools have cancelled classes.
All North Carolina state parks are already closed or will close today and will remain closed through Sunday. Many state museums and other attractions are also closed. For the full list of closings, visit the DNCR website.
The Governor’s Office has activated the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund, which has been used in previous disasters, to accept donations to support North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Florence. To donate, visit https://governor.nc.gov/ or text FLORENCE to 20222.