3 dead, thousands without power as Florence moves through North Carolina
HAMPSTEAD, NC (WDRB) -- Hurricane Florence has claimed its first victims -- with at least three people reported dead hours after the hurricane made landfall on Friday.
A mother and her infant were killed when a tree fell on their house in Wilmington, North Carolina. And a third person died in the storm about a half-hour north of there.
Florence made landfall early Friday morning, pummeling the area with wind and rain. Some communities are already submerged in more than six feet of water.
In Hampstead, buildings were collapsed and trees and numerous power lines were down.
As the giant, 400-mile-wide hurricane pounded away, it unloaded heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.
Power crews from Kentucky and Indiana were sent to the Carolinas earlier this week to help restore electricity.
WDRB's Travis Ragsdale and Marc Weinberg had to carefully navigate the roads to get from Topsail Island to Hampstead, dodging large trees that blocked roadways and knocked down power lines.
The biggest concern now that the winds have died down is flooding. Some areas have already seen as much as 30 inches of rain in 24 hours.
Its storm surge and the prospect of 1 to 3 1/2 feet of rain were considered a bigger threat than its winds, which dropped off from an alarming 140 mph - Category 4 - earlier in the week.
By early afternoon, Florence's winds had weakened to 75 mph, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm's terrifying peak of 140 mph earlier in the week. But Florence had slowed to a crawl as it traced the North Carolina-South Carolina shoreline, drenching coastal communities for hours on end.
The town of Oriental had gotten more than 18 inches of rain just a few hours into the deluge, while Surf City had 14 inches and it was still coming down.
Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls westward across the Carolinas all weekend. WDRB's Marc Weinberg said residents can expect a massive freshwater flooding situation.
The area is expected to get about as much rain in three days as Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd dropped in two weeks in 1999.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually make a right hook to the northeast over the southern Appalachians, moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England as a tropical depression by the middle of next week.
Stay with WDRB News as we bring you continuing coverage of Hurricane Florence.
- VIDEO | WDRB's Marc Weinberg and Travis Ragsdale in NC as Florence makes landfall
- VIDEO | WDRB News previews arrival of Hurricane Florence from Carolina coast
- As Hurricane Florence moves in, Louisville crews head out to help storm victims
- Kentucky, Indiana sending crews to East Coast to help with Hurricane Florence
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.