First death during Hurricane Florence confirmed in Pender County

Waves slam against a pier in North Carolina

Hurricane Florence is dumping rain on North Carolina and pushing a storm surge taller than most humans onto communities near the coast.

It remained a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 80 miles per hour, but stronger gusts have been reported.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing cinderblock motel at the height of the storm. Officials say more than 100 people have already been rescued in the area overnight.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", New Bern city officials said on Twitter.

With rain pounding relentlessly, the streets were deserted.

There were no immediate reports of any deaths.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday, but warned that life-threatening storm surges - in which water is pushed by a storm over land that would normally be dry - catastrophic freshwater flooding were still expected.

The fourth person who died was a man in Lenoir County who was hooking up a generator, Gov. Roy Cooper's office said. "It's an uninvited brute who doesn't want to leave". "Hurricane Florence is going to continue its violent grind across our state for days".

The storm made landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina, in the gloom of dawn Friday as a Category 1 hurricane.

Antonio Ramirez, a construction worker from El Salvador living in Leland, North Carolina, said he planned to ride out the worst of the weather with his dog Canelo. The hurricane officially hit the East Coast around 7:40 a.m. ET as a Category 1 storm. By that time, emergency crews had already been deployed to parts of the state where people were trapped by floodwaters. Flash floods can materialize within minutes of intense rain as the water rushes down hillsides.

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President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid. However, experts remained unsure midday Wednesday where the storm would make landfall in the Carolinas.

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South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is giving another update on his state's response to Hurricane Florence.

Florence is expected to dump several feet of rain on the Carolinas as she makes a slow push inland over the next few days. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water, he calculated.

The homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions. Traffic lights out of order because of power failures swayed in the gusty wind.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles (315 km). "The longer you have this hurricane wind flow, the longer you push that water well inland", he said. It's since slowed down even more than it had been - moving west at just 2 miles per hour. Federal officials had said midweek they weren't concerned about that facility or five other nuclear plants in the storm's path, calling them "hardened".

One of the rescuers in New Bern was Jason Weinmann, a retired Marine who has a military troop transport vehicle he bought at a government auction.

"Help is on the way", said Mayor Outlaw.

New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw told The Durham Herald-Sun around 5am that about 200 people had been rescued so far.

Jennifer Morales, 20, said there was 3 feet of water in her home. "Trees are blowing down in the wind".

Meanwhile in SC, more than 60 shelters accommodated over 5,600 people.

"Rescue workers are working in unsafe conditions that will only get worse today", said Cooper, who called the storm a "1,000-year rain event" for parts of southeastern North Carolina.

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