The rain turned sideways Thursday, rivers swelled and floodwaters began to fill streets, as massive Hurricane Florence trudged toward North Carolina.
Florence is now a Category 1 storm with a 10-foot storm surge, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm’s outer bands lashed towns on the barrier islands and on some of the Tar Heel State’s rivers, as the center of the cyclone moved to make a probable Friday landfall.
Though the storm, once a Category 4, was downgraded Thursday night to a Category 1 from a Category 2, the danger is very real. Parts of North Carolina may see as much as 40 inches of rain and storm surges could be as high as 13 feet.
“Flooding and the storm surge — those are the two main things that kill people, and this storm is not letting up,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday.
The storm will churn very slowly Friday and Saturday, extending the damaging winds and huge amounts of rain that will hit the same areas of North and South Carolina for 24 hours.
High winds and floodwaters could knock power out for several days, if not longer, officials said. More than 185,000 customers already were without power in North Carolina Thursday evening — and that number is likely to rise.
‘Don’t risk your life’
Florence has prompted massive evacuations.
Marge Brown, 65, says goodbye to her father, George Brown, 90, before he is evacuated from a healthcare home in Morehead City, N.C., Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast.
For those in an evacuation area, “there is still time to get out,” Cooper said Thursday. “Don’t risk your life riding out a monster storm.”
“You’re potentially risking the life of a first responder who would try to come and help you, and we don’t need that,” he added. “I know it’s difficult to move, and I know that you are leaving things behind that you don’t want to leave behind, but no possession is worth your life.”
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster added: “Time is running out. Now is the time to go because that window of opportunity is closing on you very quickly.”
Ignoring evacuation calls
But not everyone has packed their bags.
Kelly Salisbury said she’s staying put in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, even though most of the town left.
“We’re on vacation, and we have a week off, and we came down from northern Virginia to have fun,” she told ABC News. “Play in the water, enjoy the sunshine. Until we can’t. See what happens.”
She continued: “Of course we’re worried. But we’re watching the news every day. We’re keeping track of it, seeing where it’s going to hit and what category it is. And if we feel the need to leave we’ll go. But we’re going to stay as long as we can.”
In Awendaw, South Carolina, Chris Johnson said he’s staying behind to watch his house while his wife, Michele, is evacuating.
“I’m not sure if I could go out in the middle of the storm on a 12-foot ladder to replace a window, but I could be on the inside and try to do something … or if the refrigerator goes out … I can take care of all of that,” Chris Johnson told ABC News.
Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the area. Photo Credit: Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP
Portions of a boat dock and boardwalk are destroyed by powerful wind and waves as Hurricane Florence arrives in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Sept. 13, 2018. Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Michele Johnson said she’s worried about her husband, but “I think he’s OK with me going, so I don’t stress him out more. It’s probably good for our marriage.”
Added Chris: “I think with what we know right now [with the storm track] this is the best decision for us. I think it’s a great compromise. I’m glad we both came to the decision ourselves. Hopefully, the cell phone tower, which is not too far away, will still work. We can keep in touch.”
A large rain cloud passes over a day before the arrival of hurricane Florence in Wilmington, N.C. on Sept. 12, 2018.
The South Carolina county encompassing Myrtle Beach has imposed a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.
Flash flooding strikes Hawaii
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, tropical depression Olivia is bringing rain and flash flooding to Hawaii.
Peak rain rates of about 1 inch per hour were recorded in Puna and South Hilo.
A home on Kahekili Highway near the Waihee River Bridge, was evacuated after a flash flood breached the property, Sept. 12, 2018, in Maui, Hawaii.
Water floods a parking lot at a condo complex near Kahana Village in Lahaina, Hawaii, Sept. 12, 2018.
On Thursday night, city officials in Jacksonville, North Carolina, posted photos of a toppled gas pump and a downed tree after wind gusts exceeded 80 mph, warning residents to stay indoors as the hurricane passes. Downed power lines have also been reported in the area.