Latest: Hurricane Florence downgraded to a Category 1

Update: Florence has been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 90mph.

The National Hurricane Centre said Florence is now lashing the North Carolina coast with hurricane-force winds and a life-threatening storm surge. It said the threat of freshwater flooding will increase in coming hours and days from the storm's heavy rains.

The Miami-based centre said in an update at 11pm EDT (4am Irish Time) on Thursday that the storm's eye was about 50 miles south of Morehead, City, North Carolina. The core is also about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

The storm is moving to the northwest at 6mph.

Forecasters say the centre of Florence is expected to move inland between today and Saturday.

North Carolina officials have said parts of the state could experience a once-in-a-millennia flood as Hurricane Florence dumps rain for days to come.

Governor Roy Cooper said that Florence is "wreaking havoc" and he is concerned "whole communities" could be wiped away.

He said parts of the state have seen storm surges as high as 10 feet.

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said the state is expecting 1,000-year "flood events" in areas between Wilmington and Charlotte.

Earlier: More than 415,000 without power as Hurricane Florence makes landfall

Hurricane Florence has hit the US coast leaving streets inundated with ocean water and tens of thousands of homes without power.

The centre of the hurricane made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina, bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and 90mph winds.

More than 60 people had to be evacuated from a motel at risk of collapse in Jacksonville. Parts of buildings ripped apart by the storm flew through the air.

Authorities in the North Carolina city of New Bern said there are around 150 people waiting to be rescued from rising flood waters.

The US National Hurricane Centre said that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3ft of inundation. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles north of Wilmington.

More than 415,000 homes and businesses were without power this morning, according to poweroutage.us which tracks the nation's electrical grid.

The weather service later measured a storm surge 10ft deep in the city, which lies on the Neuse River near the Atlantic coast.

In Washington, North Carolina, the wind-swept Pamlico River burst its banks and flooded entire neighbourhoods. Floodwaters submerged US Highway 264, cutting off a major route to other flood-prone areas along the river.

Earlier: Hurricane Florence expected to trigger ‘catastrophic’ freshwater flooding

Hurricane Florence has already inundated streets on the US east coast with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power amid fears the storm will bring “catastrophic” freshwater flooding over parts of the Carolinas.

The US National Hurricane Centre said Florence’s eyewall is beginning to approach the North Carolina coast, bringing with it life-threatening storm surge.

Authorities in the North Carolina city of New Bern say there are around 150 people waiting to be rescued from rising flood waters.

The US National Hurricane Centre said that a gauge in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, recently reported 6.3ft of inundation. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles north of Wilmington.

Screaming winds bent trees and led to near-horizontal rain as Florence’s leading edge whipped the Carolina coast on Thursday to begin an onslaught that could last for days, leaving a wide area underwater from both heavy downpours and rising seas.

The storm’s intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to around 90mph by nightfall.

Governor Roy Cooper has warned of an impending disaster.

He said: “The worst of the storm is not yet here but these are early warnings of the days to come.

“Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience.”

Mr Cooper requested additional federal disaster assistance in anticipation of what his office called “historic major damage” across the state.

Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts are less dire.

Prisoners were affected, too. North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centres in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it is unclear how many did.

The homes of about 10 million are under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

Forecasters said conditions will deteriorate as the storm pushes ashore near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland.

Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11ft of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3ft of rain, touching off severe flooding.

Although it was once a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140mph, the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 1 on Thursday night.

Forecasters said that given the storm’s size and sluggish track, it could cause enormous damage similar to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses.

- Press Association


Related Articles

Extreme weather events will swamp emergency response

Two detainees killed as sheriff’s van caught in rising floodwater

Watch as rescuers save trapped dogs from rising water levels of Hurricane Florence

Route reopened into city cut off by Florence flood water

More in this Section

Trump’s boasts of American might draw cool reception at UN

Cosby declared a ‘sexually violent predator’ at sentencing

Swedish prime minister loses confidence vote

Trump rejects ‘global governance’ in speech to UN General Assembly


More From The Irish Examiner