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Mother, infant, among several killed by Hurricane Florence

No storm-related deaths or serious injuries were reported in the hours immediately after Florence hit.

The mother and baby were among a family of three who were in a house in Wilmington, North Carolina, when it was struck by a falling tree. Another woman died of a heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 120 miles per hour winds on Thursday but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore.

By Friday evening, the center of the storm had moved to eastern SC, about 15 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

A gust of 169km/h was recorded at Wilmington airport, surpassing the power of Hurricane Fran two decades ago. The National Hurricane Center says a sustained wind of 55 miles per hour (89 kph) and a gust to 68 miles per hour (109 kph) were reported in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

Forecasters said “catastrophic” freshwater flooding was expected along waterways far from the coast of North and SC. This is expected to cause “catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding”.

“This is not the end of it”, said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “The infrastructure is going to break”. That number was down to 40 later in the day. Officials did not know his condition as of 3:30 p.m. Friday.

In Wilmington, the storm tore down numerous trees when its centre tore through the area on Friday morning.

In Wilmington, near where the eye of the hurricane touched down, trees and power lines were felled and many windows were broken.

“A big worry about Hurricane Florence is that it’s not acting like a normal hurricane”, said Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from Wilmington, North Carolina.

The Hurricane Florence has began to unleash fierce rains across the USA southeast. “You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU”.

“It’s moving very, very slowly”, the weather service’s Baker said of the hurricane. Though Florence did not arrive with winds as violent as once feared, forecasters got the storm surge and rainfall correct.

“From now own, we’ll have to deal with rain and the possibility of a tornado threat”, Baker said.

Gardner said the Cape Fear River, which is now at 2.4 feet is likely to reach 22.9 feet by Monday.

The Weather Service forecast the Lumber to reach major flood stage Saturday and to keep rising through Sunday.

Farther up the coast, in New Bern, about 150 people waited to be rescued from flooding on the Neuse River, WXII-TV reported.

“We are still in hurricane season so there’s always a chance that we’ll have another one, plus winter is coming so these might be items that people can use”, Whitaker said. “If you live in an area near a river, the peaks can occur much later”. Downpours and flooding would be especially severe, lasting for days, if the storm stalls over land. “I couldn’t even imagine”, he said. “There are a lot of different hazards”.

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And cameras aboard the International Space Station managed to catch incredible footage just a few minutes after the storm’s landfall.