Hurricane Florence: North Carolina family's garage submerged in water

Graphic of hurricane track

Key warnings published by the NHC at 5 a.m. EDT on Friday Sept. 14 2018

Hurricane Florence smashed into the US East Coast on Friday with howling winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surges as emergency crews scrambled to rescue hundreds of people stranded in their homes by flood waters.

The storm is a Category 1 with 75 miles per hour winds and higher gusts.

Peggy Perry, who was rescued by another group in New Bern, said rising water forced her into the upper level of her home.

Rainfall will be one of the most destructive elements of hurricane Florence, with heavy rain triggering unsafe flash floods and potential landslides.

"I know North Carolinians".

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.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared previous year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for almost 3,000 deaths in the desperate aftermath. The storm is moving at a crawling speed - just 3 miles per hour.

A city spokeswoman for New Bern, NC, said more than 200 people were rescued from floodwaters Thursday night, and confirmed that 150 more were waiting to be rescued by Friday morning.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 170 miles, the hurricane center said.

Storm surge could be as high as 11 feet in parts of North Carolina, prompting officials to closely watch the rise of rivers in the eastern part of the state.

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The storm is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rainwater on USA soil, most of it in North Carolina, meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted.

It was expected to begin pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a drenching that could go on all weekend.

He said 20,000 people were being housed in shelters across the state.

The North Carolina State Emergency Response Team released a statement Saturday night indicating a, 81-year-old man died in Wayne County after falling and hitting his head as he packed to evacuate on Friday.

As it moves inland, the storm is expected to bring its high winds and intense rain bands across the southeastern corner of North Carolina and a large chunk of SC.

Video footage showed parking lots in the riverfront town of New Bern turn into shallow lakes of dirty gray water as heavy rain fell.

Officials have warned against entering attics, unless people have a means to cut through to the roof to avoid drowning.

Sustained wind speeds were clocked at 50 miles per hour with higher gusts.

Florence is expected to dump several feet of rain on the Carolinas as she makes a slow push inland over the next few days.

Florence is one of four named storms in the Atlantic. McMaster's remarks are set to begin at 2:30 p.m.

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