[Newsmaker] 'Threat becomes reality': Florence begins days of rain, wind

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The centre of the hurricane's eye came ashore at about 7.15am EDT (7.15pm Singapore time) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 150kmh, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

These same areas that are inundated with storm surge will also be hammered by damaging winds sustained at 50 to 70 miles per hour with gusts as high as 80 to 90 miles per hour - strong enough to damage homes and buildings, down trees and knock out power.

Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 80 miles and tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm. "Today the threat becomes a reality".

It's unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. She hopes they'll stay inside once the winds, rain and floods arrive.

As of 9 p.m. EST, North Carolina Emergency Management reported that 102,308 customers were without power - even before Florence made landfall.

There is around 156,068 people that have lost power and police have suspended their services in Morehead City and other coastal cities, warning any residents who remain in the evacuation zone that they will be without emergency services until the storm passes. "In a matter of seconds, my house was flooded up to the waist, and now it is to the chest", said Peggy Perry, who was trapped with three relatives in her home in New Bern, CNN reported. Those heading to Charleston were told to find another destination.

Hurricane Florence has begun battering it's way through the North Carolina coastline with heavy rain and high winds in what people fear could lead to the deaths of "a lot of people". States of emergency have already been declared in both North and SC.

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Strom surge that was projected between nine and twelve feet in Pamlico Sound and the Pamlico and Neuse rivers was expected to cause a "tremendous amount of inland flooding", said Neil Jacobs, assistant secretary at the Commerce Department over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Little change in strength is expected before the center reaches the coast. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.

A few hours after landfall, forecasters said Florence was slowly wobbling southwestward just off the coast of southern North Carolina.

Although Florence has been downgraded from a category four to a category two storm, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent".

Regarding the possibility of a storm surge, Jones said, "Everyone has to be on the lookout for that, however, the way our house sits, it's elevated". But authorities warn Florence has an enormous wind field as it zeroes in on the Southeast U.S. coast, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely risky.

Not everyone was taking Florence too seriously: About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night in the United States behind the boarded-up windows of The Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington.

About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million more live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.

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