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Official Describes Hurricane Florence Rescue Efforts In Hard-Hit New Bern, North Carolina

Official Describes Hurricane Florence Rescue Efforts In Hard-Hit New Bern, North Carolina

Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph) as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early Thursday, reducing the storm from Category 4 to Category 2, but forecasters warned that the enormous wind field has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land.

The brunt of Hurricane Florence slammed North Carolina this morning with winds raging an astonishing 90 miles per hour (150 km/h), according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Thanks to its Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), NASA has shown an incredible 3D view of Hurricane Florence as it approached the eastern part of the U.S.

But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent. We will have catastrophic effects".

More than 80,000 people in North Carolina already were without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

The storm will then turn northward across western North Carolina and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.

There were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or serious injuries, but authorities said more than 100 people were rescued further north in New Bern, where the downtown area of the city of 30,000 people was under water.

New Bern resident Latasha Jones is one of the more fortunate ones.

Bertha Bradley said she has never favored evacuating ahead of hurricanes. "We were anxious about the hurricane, had it continued to be as strong as what they were originally stating". "A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight". We have steps on the sides of the house so it's a few feet off the ground anyway.

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"We've got to quickly understand the damage that's been done to the transportation systems, the communication systems, the power systems, and we are positioning, and have bene positioned for multiple days now, to get those critical lifelines back up and stable as quickly as we can", he said.

So far, a state of emergency has been declared in five states - South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland and Washington DC. Scores of people still await rescue there.

The center said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days.

The storm's centre was about 180km east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 2pm local time (18:00 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands.

In addition, hurricane-strength winds are predicted to batter everything in the storm's path.

Whether residents left their homes, sought refuge in a shelter or are hunkering down, the weather service has bad news: After creeping inland, Florence "is expected to slow down even more today and tonight".

After appearing headed toward the North Carolina-Virginia border at one point, Florence shifted south and is now taking aim at the Carolinas.

Craven County Public Information Officer Amber Parker says the storm surge has caused flooding in some downtown New Bern businesses and Union Park is underwater. "This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the Hurricane Center said.

Tornadoes are also possible.