FLORENCE, South Carolina – Authorities in North Carolina are blaming five deaths on the effects of Hurricane Florence, which made landfall early Friday near Wrightsville Beach.
The police force of Wilmington, the largest population center in the impact zone, said via Twitter that a woman and her baby died after a tree fell on their home, while the father was taken to a nearby hospital.
Another person died in nearby Hampstead, North Carolina.
Tom Collins, director of Pender County’s Emergency Management, said that a woman who suffered a heart attack died because an ambulance was unable to reach her in time due to fallen trees blocking the roads.
Soon afterward, the administration of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said that a 78-year-old man died of electrocution as he was attempting to connect a power generator, while CBS 17 television reported that a 77-year-old man was killed after a gust of wind knocked him to the ground.
Florence, with maximum sustained winds of 150 kph (90 mph) when it came ashore at 7:15 am, has weakened to a tropical storm with top winds of 110km/h, according to the latest bulletin from the US National Hurricane Center.
Some areas have already received 15 inches of rain, according to the NHC, which warned that the storm could bring up to 40 inches of rain to parts of North and South Carolina, producing “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding.”
Authorities were most concerned about inland flooding and storm-surge flooding from Florence.
A storm surge of about 3 m (10 ft) above normal levels was reported by the National Weather Service’s office in Morehead City, North Carolina.
Duke Energy, a utility company that serves the Carolinas, estimated that up to 3 million customers could lose electricity as a result of the hurricane.