Florence weakens to tropical storm, leaves at least five dead

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A Navy statement says the decision comes after inspections of the region's port and airfield.

About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.

Still, some residents ignored calls to evacuate.

By Saturday morning the winds weakened to 50mph but the storm's slow speed means that communities in North Carolina are receiving a prolonged battering by torrential rain.

Horry County officials told The Sun News that emergency personnel are still responding to calls and never stopped.

Hurricane-force winds were extending out up to 80 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 195 miles, the center said.

The National Hurricane Center said the area should also expect "life-threatening" storm surges, hurricane-strength wind gusts and "catastrophic" fresh water flooding as Hurricane Florence slowly churns inland.

Top sustained winds are now about 100 km/h and the storm is moving to the west-southwest at 7 km/h - a track that is expected to continue through early Saturday. Those speeds will remain consistent until winds die down Sunday.

Some towns have already been soaked by more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of drenching rains, and forecasters warned that totals could reach 3 1/2 feet (1 meter), unleashing floods well inland through early next week.

That's the new North Carolina record for most rainfall from a single tropical system.

He added that people living near rivers, streams and lowland areas in the region were most at risk. That is roughly double the rainfall from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, he said.

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Hurricane Florence has barrelled into the Carolina coast and moved inland, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.

Government aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-priced loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of Hurricane Florence.

The National Hurricane Center described Florence's path as a wobble around southeastern North Carolina. Maximum sustained winds remained at 50 miles per hour (80 kph).

Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Flash flood are expected to his the south-east coast as the storm moves across land.

The Sheriff's Office said those deaths are not hurricane-related.

Forecasters say it is now moving into eastern SC, crawling along at just 3mph (4.8km/h). It predicted unsafe storm surges of as much as 5 feet along the Carolina coastline.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull dozens of people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse. The storm is some 400 miles (645 kilometers) wide.

By Saturday morning a normally tranquil stream known as Crab Tree Swamp was flowing fast and was just a foot from engulfing a bridge which provides north-south access to Conway. Rescue crews have used boats to reach hundreds besieged by the rising waters. In perspective, Florence could drop up to eight months of rain in two or three days.

The figure included a woman and her baby killed when a tree fell on their house.