Carolina Residents Who Refused to Evacuate Calling for Help

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A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police.

"We hope to have something left when we get home", she said.

Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm, after barreling into North Carolina with damaging winds and heavy rain, leaving at least five people dead.

Florence's eye made landfall over the Wrightsville Beach water tower, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Wilmington.

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

Charlotte Douglas Airport is open Friday, and plans to stay open all weekend, even as the remnants of Hurricane Florence brush past Charlotte.

A North Carolina meteorologist reporting on Hurricane Florence was forced to abandon his live broadcast mid-sentence - just as his building began to flood, video shows.

Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and SC ahead.

Many coastal residents heeded the evacuation orders and fled in advance of the arrival of Florence, with some ending up in the more than 200 emergency shelters set up statewide. "The infrastructure is going to break".

In New Bern, the unsafe conditions prompted officials in the coastal city to place the city under 24-hour curfew at 7 a.m. Friday.

The region is being pounded with rain from the slow-moving storm, causing the risk of catastrophic flooding.

Governor Cooper said: "Hurricane Florence is powerful, slow and relentless".

"Seeing them get out of the vehicle and seeing their emotions was heartbreaking", he said.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared previous year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at almost 3,000. "Not only that, but the wind field actually expands as the center of circulation starts to lose some intensity, you'll start to get hurricane force winds further out from the storm". "We're going to have to have patience, we're going to have to be careful and we're going to have to deal with a lot of water".

Forecasters are anticipating landslides near the Appalachians and near-record river flooding. Isolated areas could see as much as 40 inches.

A man sits on a park bench in a flooded park as the Cape Fear River rises above its usual height in Wilmington, N.C., on Friday.

"If we do have high winds here and we get into a situation where we have crosswinds on the field we do have a crosswind runway", Byrd said.

Travel on the state's roads has grown "extremely hazardous", said Jim Trogdon, the North Carolina transportation secretary, who warned in a late-morning briefing that a 500- to 1,000-year "flood event is anticipated".

"For a meandering storm, the biggest concern - as we saw with Harvey - is the huge amount of rainfall", said Chris Landsea, chief of tropical analysis and forecast branch at the National Hurricane Center.

Both the Trent and Neuse rivers overflowed their banks, flooding homes, stores and streets and trapping many people in their houses.