ADDS CASUALTIES, UPDATE WIND SPEEDS, POWER OUTAGES
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – A mother and her infant were the first confirmed deaths from Hurricane Florence as it hit North Carolina early Friday.
They pair was killed when a tree fell on their house, according to a tweet from the Wilmington Police Department.
Pender County Emergency Management Director Tom Collins told WWAY-3 a third person died of an apparent heart attack.
The Category 1 hurricane came ashore near Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m., and was dumping as much as 3 inches (2.5 centimeters) of rain per hour. It rapped the coastline with maximum winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour and torrential downpours as it pushed a storm surge far inland. Hurricane-force winds extend 80 miles (128 kilometers) out from the storm's center.
Florence is expected to hover over North and South Carolina for up to a day, continually pounding the southern states as it creeps along at a mere 6 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service warned of "catastrophic" flooding with Florence shaping up to dump as much as 40 inches (50-100 centimeters) of water before moving along from North and South Carolina.
"This storm will be a marathon vs. a sprint," the agency said in a tweet.
"In addition to the ongoing, dangerous storm surge and flash flooding, will be a long-term river flood threat WELL INLAND as very heavy rainfall continues to fall in the coming days."
More than 643,000 people are without power mid-day Friday, emergency officials said.
Florence is expected to move inland before curving northeastward towards West Virginia and on to the northeastern U.S. early next week.
More than 1 million people were ordered to evacuate ahead of Florence's arrival. First responders were already working to rescue those who chose not to heed the directives.