More than 20,000 on NC coast already without power from Florence gusts

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Tropical Storm Florence made landfall Friday morning as a Category 1 hurricane and has continued to weaken as it slowly moves inland.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm.

Another woman who was rescued by another group in New Bern told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360˚" that she and her family thought they would be safe in their brick home and heard the storm had been downgraded from a Category 4.

"Hurricanes normally come in and they go inland, which sucks the power out of them as they go over the land", he said.

"We've got nearly 20,000 people in 157 shelters", Cooper said. "We've got some roof issues, parts of roof are coming off and we've got some fences coming down".

As the giant, 400-mile-wide hurricane pounded away, it unloaded heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.

Billy Sample, a resident stuck in the town of Carolina Beach, North Carolina, said Friday night: "The height of the storm didn't feel as bad as it is now".

A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man perished when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs.

Both deaths were reported to the State Medical Examiner's Office by the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office.

About 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians have been deployed, with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

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Right now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center is predicting that Florence will become a tropical storm tomorrow (Sept. 15) over SC, continue northwest to eastern Kentucky, then swing northeast and track over most of New England early next week.

Neighbour Adam Sparks said he noticed emergency responders arrive at the house across the street right around when his power went out and the storm was intensifying.

National Weather Service forecasters said the storm would roam along the coast for at least two more days before reaching Columbia, South Carolina, early Sunday.

Hurricane Florence has caused some damage to Wilmington International Airport, said Gary Broughton, the airport's deputy director.

Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Aldi, Lidl, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Walmart and Publix were among the chains announcing temporary store closures in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia as Florence passes through the region.

Water levels in Pamlico Sound and Emerald Isle are elevated and are expected to rise even further as the tide comes in.

"We are expecting several more days of rain", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said, describing the amount of rainfall from the hurricane as a "1,000-year event".

Officials have warned that the life-threatening storm could come with maximum sustained wind speeds of 90mph and carries a risk of "catastrophic" flooding. Parts of the Carolinas could see 50 cm to 76 cm, with isolated areas getting 101 cm, over seven days along the coast.

More than 1.7 million people evacuated this week, leaving behind homes, schools and precious belongings.

She said the shop, with an electric generator, was safer than their nearby home.

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