Hurricane Florence has made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., with strong storm surge, heavy rains and strong winds that stranded more than 200 people in the New Bern, N.C., area who needed to be rescued. More than 250,000 people were without power at daybreak.
According to numerous reports, New Bern-based WCTI-TV NewsChannel 12 posted on its Facebook page last night that its employees had to abandon the studio for the first time in the company’s history. New Bern is along the Neuse River about 90 miles northeast of Wilmington. The station said that roads around the station’s building were flooding.
At 8 a.m., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center had the storm 10 miles east of Wilmington, N.C., and 65 miles southwest of Myrtle Beach, S.C., with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical-storm-force winds extend to 195 miles.
The biggest concern for forecasters remains the speed at which the storm is moving, about 6 mph. The NHC said in a statement, “A turn toward the west at a slow forward speed is expected today, followed by a slow west-southwest motion tonight and Saturday.” The center of the storm is expected to move across extreme southeastern North Carolina and east South Carolina today and Saturday. It will then move north across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week.
Storm surge also remains a worry with levels expected to reach a maximum height of 11 feet from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, N.C., with higher amounts in the Neuse, Pamlico, Pungo and Bay Rivers.
Rainfall will also contribute to flooding with up to 25 inches expected in southeastern coastal North Carolina and into South Carolina, with totals possibly reaching 40 inches in isolated locations.