Flash flood fears as Storm Florence batters US

Homes flooded by Hurricane Florence in Wilmington North Carolina

Screaming winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence's leading edge whipped the Carolina coast on Thursday to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

Some towns have already been soaked by more than 2 feet (60 centimetres) of drenching rains, and forecasters warned that totals could reach 3 1/2 feet (1 metre), unleashing floods well inland through early next week.

At least four people have died, and authorities fear the toll will go higher as the tropical storm crawls westwards across SC.

"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending", Gov Cooper said.

Rescue crews used boats to carry more than 385 people from rising water in the river town of New Bern, North Carolina, while many of their neighbors still awaited help, according to city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue, of weathermodels.com calculated, that 34 million people in the U.S. could get at least 3in of rain from Florence, with more than 5.7 million people probably receiving at least a foot.

US power companies said more than 974,000 homes and businesses, mostly in North Carolina and SC, were without power on Saturday after Florence hit the Southeast coast.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Two people in Lenoir County were killed: a 78-year-old Kinston man who was electrocuted when connecting extension cords in the rain and a 77-year-old man who was blown down by the wind when he went to check on his hunting dogs. Parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 3 metres, he said.

The storm originally made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday as a category one hurricane.

More North Carolina residents and several animals were also rescued Friday night and into Saturday morning in Carteret, the state's third largest county.

This will then produce more catastrophic flash flooding and major river flooding.

"High winds and severe flooding from Hurricane Florence will impede the pace of our outage restoration efforts".

Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and SC ahead.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico previous year.

Flood waters from Tropical Storm Florence cover a golf club near Wallace, N.C., on September 15, 2018. Warnings were issued about the risk of life-threatening flash flooding in parts of North and SC as well as in Virginia. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated.

The rest of SC and North Carolina into southwestern Virginia will experience 5 to 10 inches, with isolated totals up to 15 inches. Instead, they floated people out with the mattresses.

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

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city of New Bern tweeted around 2:30 a.m.

"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard ..."

Eudy said his family stayed in their home partly to protect their house.

"Hurricane Florence was uninvited but she's just about here anyway", he said at a news conference.

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