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Mother and child killed as Florence swamps Carolinas

Mother and child killed as Florence swamps Carolinas

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm. The storm knocked out power to almost 930,000 homes and businesses, and the number could keep rising.

Some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges as high as 10ft in places.

Forecasters said Florence's surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding. But Outlaw said on Friday morning it's "not a bad idea to get in your vehicle and get west of I-95" if residents feel they can safely do so.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper had said that "several more days of rain" were expected, describing the amount of rainfall from the hurricane as a "1,000-year event".

Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain. Although the storm is passing north of Myrtle Beach, the concern now is that river water from North Carolina will flow into the area and combine with all the water that is already there.

The centre of the slow-moving storm, downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane after it came ashore Friday afternoon, was almost stalled over SC early Saturday, about 55 kilometres west of Myrtle Beach, moving west-southwest at just 8 km/h and scooping massive amounts of moisture from the sea.

"The cost to SC, if that happens, if the storm continues the way it is going, could be in the billions", Dahler said.

The town of Oriental, North Carolina, got more than 18 inches of rain in just a few hours, while Surf City had 14 inches.

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It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), but a gust of 112 miles per hour (180 kph) was reported just offshore.

Their predictions call for moderate flooding at 43 rivers in North Carolina and SC within the next 12 hours. "Florence may be weakening but will have a large storm surge".

FEMA, the agency in charge of coordinating the federal response to Florence, was criticized a year ago for its handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 10 centimetres of water, he calculated. It's the most powerful storm of 2018 so far.

Meanwhile, many were experiencing a complete blackout as the storm damaged infrastructure, utility poles and transmission lines.

In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril.

The city warns that people "may need to move up to the second story" but tells them to stay put as "we are coming to get you".

Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighborhood during Florence's assault. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled.

"I've been through hurricanes before", he says.