Tropical Storm Florence trudged inland on Saturday, flooding rivers and towns, toppling trees and cutting power to nearly a million homes and businesses as it dumped huge amounts of rain on North and South Carolina, where five people have died.
Florence diminished from hurricane strength as it came ashore on Friday, but forecasters said the 350-mile-wide storm’s (560 km) slow progress across the two states could leave much of the region under water in the coming days.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm would dump as much as 30 to 40 inches (76-102 cm) of rain on the southeastern coast of North Carolina and part of northeastern South Carolina, as well as up to 10 inches (25 cm) in southwestern Virginia.
“This storm is relentless and excruciating,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told CNN late on Friday. “There is probably not a county or a person that will not be affected in some way by this very massive and violent storm.”
At 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the hurricane center said Florence had maximum sustained winds near 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour) and continued to produce catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas. It said it was located about 35 miles (55 km) west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and forecasters predicted a slow westward march.
“Gradual weakening is forecast while Florence moves farther inland during the next couple of days, and it is expected to weaken to a tropical depression” by Saturday night, the center said in a bulletin.
On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds (193 km). It was downgraded to Category 1 before coming ashore on Friday near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina. The hurricane center downgraded Florence to a tropical storm later in the day.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm.