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'Catastrophic' Hurricane Florence buffets U.S. east coast

14 September 2018

The storm was downgraded late Thursday to a Category 1, as the North Carolina coast was battered by hurricane-force winds and a life-threatening storm surge.

Hurricane-force winds began whipping North Carolina as federal emergency management officials warned that the hurricane remained a "very risky storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the coast. 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.

One electricity company fears that three-quarters of its four million customers will lose power as a result of the storm, and may not be reconnected for weeks.

Florence's center may linger for another whole day along the Carolinas' coast - punishing homes with crushing winds and floods and endangering those who've stayed behind.

More than 370,000 people were without power in North Carolina early on Friday, state officials said.

Michael Nelson floats in a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded his street during Hurricane Florence in New Bern, N.C., Thursday. The storm has already dumped up to a foot of rain in some areas, and it could bring as much as 40 inches.

Hundreds of thousands of people have evacuated the coast, more than 1500 U.S. flights have been cancelled, factories were shut and farmers rushed to save crops, poultry and pigs in anticipation of the storm.

There are fears that this storm could cause damage similar to what Houston suffered during Hurricane Harvey a year ago, when homes and businesses were inundated with floodwater.

As of 7:30 a.m. EST, 402,974 residents were experiencing power outages, according to the North Carolina Department of Safety.

He added: "This is a very unsafe storm".

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"The remainder of SC and North Carolina into southwest Virginia will see 5 to 10 inches, with isolated 15 inches".

North Carolina is the largest tobacco grower and ranks second among USA states in hog inventory and producing broiler chickens.

Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center, said: "It truly is really about the whole size of this storm".

Hurricane-force winds will bring down trees and damage homes and businesses.

Another Wilmington resident said she does not want to leave because she is afraid to see what she would be coming back to. North Carolina will likely see eight months' worth of rain in two to three days, said National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear in a video briefing.

"The shelters are not taking dogs", Ramirez said. "I'm not leaving him here".

Florence is forecast to significantly weaken as it crawls across central South Carolina Saturday.

Perched on the porch of his home, carpenter Tony Albright was calmly awaiting Florence's arrival, beer in hand.

"The only thing missing in there is a hot lady".