Florence weakens to tropical storm, leaves at least five dead

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Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m.at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington, as the center of its eye moved onshore, the National Hurricane Center said.

"WPD can confirm the first two fatalities of Hurricane #Florence in Wilmington".

- A mother and her 8-month-old child were killed when a massive tree crushed their brick house Friday, according to a tweet from Wilmington, North Carolina police.

The father was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment, where no update was provided on his condition. The Duplin County Sheriff's Office confirmed the three people died in separate cars and incidents.

Crews had been on the scene clearing the roads, but have since suspended operations, according to Pender County Emergency Management Director Tom Collins.

"This storm will bring destruction", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. EMS services could not get to the woman due to the storm, marking the third Florence-related death since the storm began hitting the North Carolina coastline.

In this September 12, 2018 photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the USA east coast as seen from the International Space Station.

Parker says water levels in some areas of Craven County are already higher than levels from Hurricane Irene.

Gibson said she thinks some people couldn't afford to evacuate New Bern and others didn't heed evacuation warnings after Florence dropped from a Category 4 to a Category 1. That number was down to 40 later in the day.

At 5 p.m., Florence was centered about 50 miles west-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 25 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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"Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless", he said. In South Carolina, the storm knocked out power to approximately 130,000 customers, according to Kim McLeod of South Carolina Emergency Mnagement. But once New Bern TV news station WCTI evacuated its newsroom Thursday night because of flooding and people began to lose power, the seriousness of the situation began dawning on folks, she said.

At least 12,000 people have taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.

Winds bent trees toward the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence moved in for an extended stay, with enough of its killer winds swirling overseas to maintain its power.

"And from that point, we started hearing where people were saying on phone calls, 'I love you, ' to their family members because they were not sure they were going to get out of it alive", she said Friday. Expert scientists, however, had said they were anxious about Brunswick because of scant public information about its readiness. "It's better to just leave and then come back and see what has happened all at once". With Florence, "we're looking at the same amount of rainfall in three days".

More than 20,000 people are meanwhile taking refuge in emergency shelters.

Still, he said: "I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth".

"It was pretty bad".

Craven County public information officer Amber Parker says the storm surge has caused flooding in some downtown New Bern businesses, and Union Park is underwater.

"Just dozens of calls just saying, 'the water is coming in the house, the water is now over the hood of my auto".

"The water kept rising and kept rising", he said.