The Latest: Florence weakened but still dangerous
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Storm Florence (all times local):
Though weakened, Florence remains a very large, slow and dangerous storm as it swirls over the Carolinas.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence’s top sustained winds were holding at 45 mph (75 kph), with higher gusts east of the storm’s center.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, Florence was inching west at 3 mph (6 kph), with its center located about 50 miles (85 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Forecasters say prolonged rainfall from Florence could produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding.
Tropical storm-force winds stretched up to 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the storm’s center.
A mandatory evacuation order has been put in place for anyone who lives within a mile of the banks of North Carolina’s Cape Fear River and Little River.
Officials from Cumberland County, Fayetteville and the town of Wade issued the order early Saturday afternoon, saying residents there face “imminent danger” from flood waters expected to arrive in the area soon.
Residents are being asked to leave immediately. Officials said flood waters from other areas are accumulating north of the county and filling the river basins beyond their capacities. They asked that the evacuation begin immediately and that everyone within the evacuation areas get out by 3 p.m. Sunday.
Seven emergency shelters are open in the county.
Officials in South Carolina are reporting the state’s first fatality due to Florence, bringing the storm’s overall death toll to at least five.
A 61-year-old woman was killed late Friday when the vehicle she was driving struck a tree that had fallen across Highway 18 near the town of Union.
Capt. Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol said the woman, who was wearing a seat belt, died at the scene. No passengers were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
The tree was about 6 feet above the road surface. Hughes said the vehicle’s roof is what struck the tree.
Four weather-related deaths have been reported in North Carolina.
Portions of eastern North Carolina’s two interstates are closed because of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Florence’s torrential rains and may not re-open before Monday.
The state Department of Transportation says a 16-mile (26-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 95 between its intersection with I-40 and near the town of Dunn is closed. Law enforcement has set up a detour.
Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said Saturday that authorities were still assembling an alternate route for a 5-mile section of I-40 that is closed in both directions near the town of Warsaw, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southeast of Raleigh.
The state DOT said on its website that the two roads are expected to re-open by Monday morning.
Trogdon says road conditions are expected to get worse in the immediate future, pointing out the number of closed primary roads in eastern counties had doubled compared to Friday. He urged motorists not to travel east of I-95 or south of U.S. Highway 70.
The Navy says almost 30 Virginia-based ships and 128 aircraft sent away from their bases in the Hampton Roads-area because of now-Tropical Storm Florence have been given the go-ahead to return.
The Navy says the aircraft will make their way back beginning Saturday, and the ships will start to return Sunday.
A Navy statement says the decision comes after inspections of the region’s port and airfield.
Evacuation orders have been lifted in several coastal South Carolina counties as Florence continues to dump rain on the state.
Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order lifting evacuation orders for Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester and the Edisto Beach area of Colleton County effective at noon Saturday.
McMaster had ordered residents in most of the state’s coastal counties to evacuate ahead of Florence’s arrival. The slow-moving storm is still dumping colossal amounts of rain on North Carolina and parts of northern South Carolina.
Evacuation orders remain in place for Horry and Georgetown counties along South Carolina’s northern coast.
Tropical Storm Florence continues to weaken as it dumps dangerous amounts of rain across the Carolinas.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence’s top sustained winds have weakened to 45 mph (75 kph).
At 11 a.m. Saturday, Florence was moving west at 2 mph (4 kph), with its center located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The storm’s extremely slow speed means the risk of catastrophic flooding remains high across both states. Some areas are forecast to receive up to 15 inches more rain, and storm totals could reach over 3 feet in some areas for the week.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says areas like New Bern, North Carolina, could also see additional storm surge as high tide combines with the ocean waters still being pushed ashore by Florence’s outer bands.
North Carolina’s Harnett County has declared a mandatory evacuation along a river that’s expected to rise to more than 17 feet above flood stage.
On its Facebook page, the county said the evacuation was in effect along the Lower Little River near the Cumberland County line.
The National Weather Service is forecasting the river to crest at Manchester at 35.4 feet at about 8 a.m. Monday. Flood stage is 18 feet.
The previous record crest was 29 feet set during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The river is forecast to reach flood stage sometime after 2 a.m. Sunday.
The White House says President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration for North Carolina and that will make federal money available to people in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender.
Government aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of Hurricane Florence.
Money also is available to the state, some local governments, and some private nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in those counties.
Tropical Storm Florence is continuing to dump dangerous amounts of rain as it continues its slow slog across the Carolinas.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence is moving west at 2 mph (3.2 kph), with its center located about 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Maximum sustained winds remained at 50 mph (80 kph).
The region is being pounded with rain from the slow-moving storm, causing the risk of catastrophic flooding. Southern and central portions of North Carolina into far northeast
Parts of North and South Carolina can expect an additional 10 to 15 inches. Storm totals could reach between 30 and 40 inches in some areas.
At 8 a.m. EDT, the Miami-based hurricane center said rainfall will continue to produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.
Tropical Storm Florence keeps drenching the central Carolinas, with an additional 10 to 15 inches of rain expected before it finally swings north over the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio Valley on Monday.
The National Hurricane Center says top sustained winds have dropped to near 50 mph (80 kph) with higher gusts, and Florence is expected to become a tropical depression later Saturday.
At 5 a.m., the center was all but parked over South Carolina, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) west of Myrtle Beach, moving west-southwest at just 5 mph (8 kph) and scooping massive amounts of moisture from the sea.
Tropical Storm Florence is practically stalled over the Carolinas and the monster storm could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter). That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper calls Florence the “uninvited brute” that could wipe out entire communities. The storm is some 400 miles (645 kilometers) wide. Power outages are widespread including over 740,000 in North Carolina and 163,000 in South Carolina. Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.
Early Saturday morning Florence’s winds weakened to 65 mph (100 kph) as it moved forward at 5 mph (7 kph) and was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
A severe inland flood threat is emerging as remnants of Florence pound the Carolinas with nearly nonstop rain for a second day since the once major hurricane howled ashore.
At least four people have died since Hurricane Florence crashed into the coast Friday and nearly stalled. Though forecasters later downgraded Florence to a tropical storm, the monster system is barely moving over the Carolinas and could dump drenching rains of up to 3½ feet (1 meter). That, in turn, could trigger epic flooding well inland.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper calls Florence the “uninvited brute” that could wipe out entire communities. The storm is some 400 miles (645 kilometers) wide. Power outages are widespread, and rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters.
This story corrects the metric conversion in the first entry.