Hurricane Florence lashed the North Carolina coast early Friday morning, leaving major flooding, damage to homes and businesses, at least 150 people stranded in storm surge and nearly 300,000 power outages.
At 6 a.m., Florence was nearing landfall with 90-mph winds, heavy surf and torrential rain that triggered flooding and knocked down trees and power lines.
Some 150 people were awaiting rescue in New Bern early Friday morning. Nearly 200 people had already been rescued, according to Colleen Roberts, a city public information officer. New Bern, a city of about 30,000 residents saw significant storm surge flooding after the Neuse River overflowed its banks and swept into the town.
Craven County spokeswoman Amber Parker told ABC News that some people were trapped on their roofs. “I would say certain areas of New Bern are very desperate,” she told the network.
Roads were covered with flood water in what was expected to be the first of many waves of ever-worsening floods.
More than 20 inches of rain had fallen on Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach by Friday morning.
Officials in Onslow County reported major damages to homes in business around the county. Onslow encompases the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the cities of Jacksonville and Topsail Beach.
Forecasters warned that the next major high tide early Friday afternoon would bring life-threatening conditions and significant damage. Significant inundation of coastal, bayside, sound-side tributaries and tidal creeks is likely.
The first flooding was reported near N.C. 12, the roadway that runs through the Outer Banks – the chain of barrier islands off the North Carolina coast. The state Transportation Department said water and sand cover the highway near Rodanthe and in Avon, Buxton and just north of Hatteras Village.
Ahead of the storm, Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory evacuation of all barrier islands; evacuation orders are usually issued locally, and several areas already ordered evacuations ahead of Cooper’s decree.
Carolina Beach officials announced at 10:30 p.m. that Snow’s Cut Bridge was closed.
A storm surge of 10 feet above normal levels was reported at the Cherry Branch Ferry Terminal on the Neuse River in Havelock. A gauge at Oriental on the Neuse River recorded a water height of about 6.0 feet above normal levels, the National Weather Service said.
At a Thursday evening news conference, Cooper said flooding also had been reported along the Cape Fear River, which flows south of Wilmington, and at the Bogue Sound south of Morehead City. He said wind and waves are driving water onto roads along the coast.
“We in North Carolina have to shift from preparation to determination. We will survive this and endure,” Cooper said.
As Florence’s high winds moved onshore, gas station canopies were ripped from their supports, and trees tumbled.
About 12,000 people are in 126 evacuation shelters, said Mike Sprayberry, Emergency Management director. The governor said 750,000 to 1 million people heeded the evacuation orders.