Hurricane Florence hits U.S. East Coast, weakens to Category 1 storm

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) — Hurricane Florence that caused road flooding on the U.S. East Coast weakened to a Category 1 storm on Thursday night, hours before making landfall in the Carolinas.

“Hurricane Florence is producing a life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions over portions of eastern North Carolina. The threat of freshwater flooding will increase and spread inland over the next several days,” the the U.S. National Hurricane Center tweeted late Thursday night.

The outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence were lashing the North Carolina coast Thursday night, already causing road flooding in some areas.

According to the weather forecast, Hurricane Florence is spreading heavy rain and strong winds into the Carolinas, with landfall expected near the border between North Carolina and South Carolina on Friday, kicking off an agonizing crawl through the Southeast into early next week, producing catastrophic inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said more than 12,000 residents have entered 126 shelters across the state bracing for the hurricane.

The two major power companies in the region, Duke Energy and Dominion, reported more than 80,000 customers were without power as of early Thursday evening, local media said.

Duke said earlier this week that up to 75 percent of their 4 million customers in the Carolinas may lose power from Florence. They have more than 20,000 workers from the Carolinas and other states in place to restore power.

U.S. meteorologists have repeatedly warned that the storm is still very dangerous and destructive.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long warned that inland flooding could be deadly and the cleanup will take time and patience.

“The infrastructure is going to break,” Long said Thursday morning. “The power is going to go out. It could go out for a number of days, it could go out for weeks.”

Governors of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland have declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, joined by Washington D.C. mayor on Tuesday.

According to the U.S. National Weather Service, there are 5.25 million residents in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million in places under tropical storm warnings or watches.

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