WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Hurricane Florence was making landfall in North Carolina early Friday pushing a life-threatening storm surge for miles inland with screaming wind that was destroying buildings in its path. Seventy people had to be pulled from a collapsing hotel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued.
The powerful storm already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say that “catastrophic” freshwater flooding is expected along waterways far from the coast of the Carolinas.
As of 6 a.m., Florence was centered just 10 miles (20 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement was 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).
Screaming winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence’s leading edge moved in for an extended stay along the coast. Forecasters said this onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.
The storm’s intensity held at about 90 mph (144 kph), and it appeared that the north side of the eye was the most dangerous place to be as Florence moved ashore.