Mother and baby killed by a tree as Hurricane Florence hits US

Latest: Hurricane Florence has killed a mother and child in North Carolina.

The Wilmington Police Department said the two were killed when a tree fell on their house. The father was transported to a hospital for treatment.

They're among several people to have been killed after Hurricane Florence hit the US east coast with 90mph winds.

The hurricane came ashore early on Friday, pounding the state with torrential rain and high winds.

It has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, and is expected to continue to weaken as it moves inland over the weekend, but for the moment people are still being told to stay put.

The hurricane has torn buildings apart and hundreds have been trapped by rising water (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Forecasters have been predicting catastrophic flash flooding. The National Hurricane Centre in Miami says more than 16 inches of rain have fallen at locations in southeast North Carolina and another 20 to 25 inches is on the way.

The hurricane has torn buildings apart and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel and hundreds more were rescued elsewhere from rising water.

“WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU,” the city of New Bern tweeted around 2am local time. “You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU.”

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

Forecasters say the biggest danger is the water as the storm surge along the coastline and the prospect of one to three-and-a-half feet of rain over the coming days could trigger catastrophic flooding inland.

By early afternoon, Florence’s winds had weakened to 75mph, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm’s terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph earlier in the week.

But the hurricane had slowed to a crawl as it traced the North Carolina-South Carolina shoreline, drenching coastal communities for hours on end.

The town of Oriental had taken more than 18 inches of rain just a few hours into the deluge, while Surf City had 14 inches and it was still coming down.

“Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless,” North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said. “It’s an uninvited brute who doesn’t want to leave.”

Mr Cooper said the hurricane was “wreaking havoc” on the coast and could wipe out entire communities as it makes its “violent grind across our state for days”. He said parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges — the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane — as high as 10 feet.

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line, coming ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

There was extensive damage to Tidewater Brewing Company in Wilmington (Chuck Burton/AP)

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

For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

A boat was wedged in trees during Hurricane Florence in Orienta (Angie Propst.AP)

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of environmental havoc from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Earlier: Warning that Hurricane Florence flooding ‘could wipe out entire communities’

Hurricane Florence is “wreaking havoc” along the US coast and could wipe out entire communities, North Carolina’s governor has warned.

Buildings were torn apart by 90mph winds and hundreds of people were trapped by high water as the Category 1 storm settled in for what could be an extraordinarily destructive drenching.

Governor Roy Cooper called the rainfall an event that comes along only once every 1,000 years.

“Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless,” he said. “It’s an uninvited brute who doesn’t want to leave.”

The centre of the hurricane made landfall near Wrightsville, North Carolina, at 7.15am local time.

Its storm surge and the prospect of 1-3ft of rain were considered a bigger threat than its winds, which had dropped off from an alarming 140mph earlier in the week.

Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls westward across the Carolinas all weekend.

There was extensive damage to Tidewater Brewing Company in Wilmington (Chuck Burton/AP)

The area is expected to get about as much rain in three days as Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd dropped in two weeks in 1999.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats that could be used to pluck people from the floodwaters.

For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers.

Authorities warned too of the threat of mudslides and the risk of environmental havoc from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and pig farms.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared last year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for nearly 3,000 deaths.

The National Hurricane Centre said Florence will eventually make a right turn to the north east over the southern Appalachians, moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England as a tropical depression by the middle of next week.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue, of weathermodels.com calculated, that 34 million people in the US could get at least 3in of rain from Florence, with more than 5.7 million people probably receiving at least a foot.

A boat was wedged in trees during Hurricane Florence in Orienta (Angie Propst.AP)

Florence is expected to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain over a week along its entire path, enough water to fill more than 65,000 Empire State Buildings, Mr Maue calculated.

On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines.

The Wilmington airport had a wind gust clocked at 105mph, the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958, the weather service said.

- Press Association

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