440,000 without power as Hurricane Florence batters USA's Carolinas
WILMINGTON (Northern Carolina, USA): US Southeast power companies said nearly 440,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina and South Carolina were without power on Friday as Hurricane Florence hit the coast. Florence made landfall on Friday morning near Wrightsville Beach in southeast North Carolina as a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Heavy rain, wind gusts and rising floodwater from Florence swamped the Carolinas as the massive storm crawled toward the coast, threatening millions of people in its path with record rainfall and punishing surf. Duke Energy Corp, the biggest utility in the area with over 4 million customers, estimated the storm could cause between 1 million and 3 million outages. Restoring power to all customers could take weeks, it said.
Duke said it had more than 20,000 personnel ready to start fixing outages as soon as conditions allowed, including over 8,000 from the Duke's Carolinas utilities, 1,700 from the Midwest, 1,200 from Florida and 9,400 from other utilities.
Hurricane Florence, weakened but still dangerous, crashed into the Carolinas on Friday as a giant, slow-moving storm that stranded residents with floodwaters and swamped part of the town of New Bern at the beginning of what could be a dayslong deluge. No storm-related deaths or serious injuries were reported in the hours immediately after Florence hit but authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.
The center of the hurricane's eye came ashore at about 7:15 a.m. EDT (11:15 GMT) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 150 kph, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Florence was set to cover almost all of the state in several feet of water. As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier island chain, already had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the US Geological Service said. National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear predicted Florence would drop up to eight months' worth of rain in two or three days. A tweet from the NWS said the storm would be "a marathon vs. a sprint" as it hovered over the area dumping heavy