US & Canada

Hurricane Florence: Deadly 'brute' of a storm ravages Carolinas

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Media captionGusts & floods: the impact of the storm

Five people have been killed as Florence mauls the US East Coast, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of homes and downing trees.

The weather event has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm but forecasters still warn of life-threatening storm surges.

Winds of up to 70mph (110km/h) are also expected for several days as the weather system slowly grinds over.

Evacuation warnings have been in place for 1.7 million people in the area.

All five deaths were reported in North Carolina:

  • A mother and her infant were killed in Wilmington when a tree fell on their home on Friday. Officials say the child's father was also transported to hospital for injuries.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Trees were downed across North Carolina amid high winds on Thursday and Friday
  • Two men in their 70s were killed in Lenoir County. One was killed when connecting an electrical generator, and family members say another man was killed in a wind-related death when checking on dogs outside his property
  • A woman died from cardiac arrest in the town of Hampstead after emergency responders had their route to her blocked by downed trees, a county official said

What is the latest on the storm?

The storm originally made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday morning as a category one hurricane.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Volunteers are helping to rescue residents from flooded homes

US officials say it remains extremely dangerous because of the risks posed by catastrophic flooding.

Forecasters say the storm surge, together with up to 3.5ft (1m) of rain over the next few days, could spawn a slow-motion disaster.

Some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges as high as 10ft in places.

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Media captionThe Weather Channel uses virtual reality to show deadly storm surge

Governor Cooper said the hurricane was likely to "continue its violent grind across the state for days".

Forecasters say it is now moving into eastern South Carolina, crawling along at just 3mph.

It is expected to dump 18 trillion gallons of rainwater on US soil, meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted.

Almost 800,000 people are reported to be without power already in North Carolina, and officials have warned restoring electricity could take days or even weeks.

How are residents coping?

More than 20,000 residents have packed into North Carolina emergency shelters, and officials have told those still in the storm's path to stay in place.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, officials had rescued more than 60 people overnight from a hotel that was collapsing in the storm.

Parts of New Bern, North Carolina, which is home to 30,000 people, were 10ft underwater on Friday.

At least 200 householders in the riverfront city had to be plucked to safety by authorities.

Local resident Peggy Perry told CNN she was "stuck in the attic" along with three relatives.

"In a matter of seconds, my house was flooded up to the waist, and now it is to the chest," she added.

Officials have warned people against entering attics, so as to avoid drowning, unless they have a means to cut through to the roof.

The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump would travel to the region next week unless his trip would disrupt clean-up and rescue efforts.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world's deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane - in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific - or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we're about to get punched in the face."
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

"Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma's eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!"
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale - other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life."
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

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