Hurricane Florence forces grocery store closings

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Two people died in Lenoir County. The highest numbers are being reported in New Hanover County.

Grocery retailers have closed stores and curtailed shopping hours with the arrival of Hurricane Florence, which struck the North Carolina coast early Friday. Rainfall of up to 20 to 40 inches could fall over the next five days in some areas, forecasters say. "My wife's in a panic right now".

Forecasters warned that drenching rains of anywhere from 1 to 3½ feet as the storm crawls westward across North and SC could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.

The National Hurricane Centre downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday, but warned it would dump as much as 70 to 100 centimetres of rain on the coasts of North and SC.

That deluge will lead to "catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged, significant river flooding", according to the NHC.

The NHC described Florence as a "slow mover" and said it had the potential to dump historic amounts of rain on North and SC, as much as one metre in some places.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared past year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000.

Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did. There are about 150 people waiting to be rescued.

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"We've rescued over 100 people in New Bern, N.C.; people from Jacksonville, N.C., had to rescued from a hotel", Cooper said, describing efforts to save people in towns north of Wilmington where high floods have already hit. North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

The Cajun Navy, a rescue team formed after Katrina, scoured the small town of New Bern for victims when overnight flooding sent residents to their attics and rooftops.

New Bern resident Dan Eudy said he and his brother were awakened on Thursday night by the sound of a boat ramming against his front porch. They ventured out in life jackets into the waste-deep water to tie the boat and another floating by to a tree.

Eudy and his family stayed home in New Bern partly to protect their house.

"We have the situation that has developed here at the station, and that is that the water [is] getting [so] close to the building that the building has been evacuated", Cox said in a video posted to Twitter Thursday night. "This is a 500 or 1000-year event".

"It's important to note that the two individuals in the background are walking on concrete, and Mike Seidel is trying to maintain his footing on wet grass, after reporting on-air until 1:00 a.m. ET this morning and is undoubtedly exhausted", the network said. Trump planned a visit to the region next week.

As it moves inland, the storm is expected to bring its high winds and intense rain bands across the southeastern corner of North Carolina and a large chunk of SC.

It was expected to begin pushing its way westward across SC later in the day, in a watery siege that could go on all weekend.

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