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Storm Florence: The impact in numbers

Storm Florence: The impact in numbers

Eduardo Munoz / Reuters Water from the Neuse river floods houses during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina.

Morehead City, North Carolina, had received 23 inches of rain by Friday night, and forecasters warned Saturday morning that parts of the Carolinas could get up to 15 inches more.

"We knew this was going to be a big storm, but it is going to be of epic proportions", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference in Raleigh.

To give a sense of the scope of inundation to come, the river's crest was expected at 19.1 feet, beating the record 17.9 feet set during Hurricane Matthew.

He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 10 feet.

"It's a bit like a plot line out of 'Back to the Future, ' where you travel back in time to some alternate reality" that is plausible but without humans changing the climate, said University of Exeter climate scientist Peter Stott, one of the pioneers of the field.

The storm made landfall at Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.

"Florence is here to stay for awhile", McMaster said from Columbia Friday afternoon.

Parts of North and SC were forecast to get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).

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.

About 20,000 people hunkered down in 157 schools, shelters and a coliseum in Winston-Salem.

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"We can not hold the shoreline still in the context of a rising sea level", he said. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU".

On Wednesday, the US Geological Survey issued a statement predicting that Florence could erode away protective dunes from three-quarters of North Carolina's beaches.

"Maybe the communities of color that are expected to feel the greatest burden of a disaster like this don't have time to have a conversation like this with the media because they're fighting for their lives, they're fighting for their very survival", she said.

It already had, in Beaufort County and its capital city, Washington, where 300 people were rescued from flooded homes.

In Pender County, officials said that a woman died of a heart attack Friday morning as emergency crews tried to reach her; they were delayed because of downed trees and debris in the road.

Cooper said others should not follow suit.

The hurricane centre said the storm will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a sharp rightward swing to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

Rainfall totals for the storm will be similar to those in hurricanes Dennis and Floyd in 1999, the National Weather Service's Chris Wamsley said.

In Wilmington, high winds blew transformers, plunging the city into darkness.

The warmer air and water also makes storms more intense or stronger, Stott said.