CONWAY, S.C. — Florence, the powerful storm that has already left at least six dead and nearly 1 million people without power on the East Coast, continued to move inland at an ominously sluggish pace Saturday.
A Category 1 hurricane when it plowed ashore near Wilmington, North Carolina, early Friday, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm hours later, and the damage of the first blow along the coast was not as bad as many had feared.
But an early Saturday report from the National Hurricane Center had it crawling west at 2 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, and likely to mow a path northwest across nearly all of South Carolina, promising a brutal weekend of heavy rain and potential flooding for millions.
Rainfall in North Carolina has broken a state record, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service. More than 30 inches were recorded in Swansboro, North Carolina. The previous record of 24 inches was set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd pounded the region.
In Florence County, South Carolina, some 60 miles inland from the coast, Levi James, a spokesman for the local emergency management agency, said on Saturday morning that 400 people were housed in five shelters in Florence County. James said the rains were light Saturday morning, but he was bracing for a more intense downpour as the storm passed later in the afternoon.
In coastal Wilmington, driving rain continued to drench the city, wind gusts blew debris through nearly deserted streets, and power lines snaked across highways and suburban streets. Police Chief Ralph Evangelous urged residents to stay home. A curfew was in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
More than 1 million power failures have been reported, according to the Department of Energy. More than 840,000 were in North Carolina — knocking out power for almost one-fifth of the state.
The Coast Guard said 43 aircraft had rescued five people. The Army Corps of Engineers was engaging in a $6.1 million response, monitoring federal dams, helping with rescues, and deploying pumps and portable barriers.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Source: Pluse ng