At least five people, including a mother and her infant, have died in North Carolina as Tropical Storm Florence slowly moved from the Tar Heel State into South Carolina, officials said Friday.
After coming ashore in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon and trudged into South Carolina as night came.
Two people died in Wilmington after a tree fell on their house, the city's police department said.
"WPD can confirm the first two fatalities of Hurricane #Florence in Wilmington. A mother and infant were killed when a tree fell on their house," police tweeted Friday afternoon. "The father was transported to (New Hanover Regional Medical Center) with injuries."
The hospital said it has received three injured patients.
In the town of Hampstead, emergency responders going to a call for cardiac arrest Friday morning found their path blocked by downed trees. When they got to the home, the woman was deceased, Chad McEwen, assistant county manager for Pender County, said.
The fourth person who died was a man in Lenoir County who was hooking up a generator, Gov. Roy Cooper's office said. Another man in the county who was checking on his dogs outside was killed in what his family thought was a wind-related death Friday morning, emergency officials said.
Florence was inching along Friday night, trapping people in flooded homes and promising days of destruction and human suffering.
Storm surges, punishing winds and rain are turning some towns into rushing rivers -- and the storm is expected to crawl over parts of the Carolinas into the weekend, pounding some of the same areas over and over.
Billy Sample, a resident stuck in the town of Carolina Beach, North Carolina, said Friday night: "The height of the storm didn't feel as bad as it is now. The house is shaking back and forth much more violently than when the eyewall came through."
Sample said that when he looked outside of his house, which is about 1,000 yards from the beach, he saw the rain pooling up on the street and what looked like storm surge coming up the road.
In the besieged city of New Bern, rescuers had plucked more than 200 people from rising waters by midmorning Friday, but about 150 more had to wait as conditions worsened and a storm surge reached 10 feet, officials said. That number was down to 40 later in the day.
• Florence's location: By 11 p.m., Florence's center was moving west-southwest through South Carolina at 5 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. The center was about 20 miles north-northeast of Myrtle Beach. Gradual weakening was expected Friday night, the hurricane center said.
Prolonged, dangerous winds: Tropical storm-force winds extend 175 miles from Florence's center. The storm is expected to lumber into far southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina through Saturday, punishing the area with rain and damaging winds.
• No electricity: There were 788,916 homes and businesses without power Friday night, according to the North Carolina Emergency Management agency.
• Flooding for miles: Up to 40 inches of rain, and storm surges pushing water inland and not allowing rivers to drain, "will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding," the National Hurricane Center says. "You're going to have flooding miles and miles inland," the center's director, Ken Graham, said. Some areas of South Carolina could see rainfall totals of up to 15 inches, forecasters said.
Record gusts: Wilmington's airport recorded a 105-mph wind gust -- the fastest measured since Hurricane Helene hit the city in 1958, the National Hurricane Center said. Later Friday, a wind gust of 68 mph was measured at a station in Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington.
• Nuclear plant shutdown: A nuclear power plant in Brunswick, North Carolina, shut down operations because of the storm, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Twitter. "Plant procedures call for the reactors to be shut down before the anticipated onset of hurricane-force winds," agency spokesman Joey Ledford told CNN.
Federal officials had said midweek they weren't concerned about that facility or five other nuclear plants in the storm's path, calling them "hardened." Expert scientists, however, had said they were worried about Brunswick because of scant public information about its readiness.