Hurricane Florence Friday live updates: Keeping an eye on rising waters

Hurricane Florence makes landfall in Wilmington, N.C.

Downed trees, high winds and torrential rains wreak havoc as monster storm comes ashore in southeastern North Carolina
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Downed trees, high winds and torrential rains wreak havoc as monster storm comes ashore in southeastern North Carolina

As Hurricane Florence hurtles into the Carolinas and residents face what’s now a Category 1 storm, our reporters and photojournalists are on the coast and across the region. Their Thursday reports are here and their Wednesday reports are here.

You can follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/newsobserver/lists/hurricane-mcclatchy

New Bern, NC: On search and rescue

9:30 p.m. It was eerily quiet as darkness fell on New Bern. Riding in the back of a North Carolina National Guard 5-ton truck, searching for people in need along National Avenue where the Neuse River has flooded this neighborhood. The roar of the diesel engine and water crashing off the truck tires broke the silence. All of the homes are without power.

National Guardsman Joshua McCrary of Asheboro used his flashlight to illuminate homes searching for those in need. He is from the Delta Troop 150th out of Sanford, and this is his second hurricane working with water rescues. The rain continued to fall into the night in New Bern with a steady wind.


The NC National Guard and a Greenville swift water team search for those in need as night falls in New Bern on Friday, September 14, 2018 in New Bern, NC

Myrtle Beach, SC: Believe it or not

8:42 p.m.: A fox was caught on camera, sitting in front of Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Myrtle Beach ahead of Hurricane Florence.

Myrtle Beach Police Department posted the photo, with the caption, “Some of our wildlife looking for shelter. Fox spotted in front of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.#hurricaneflorence #whatdoesthefoxsay

The post has had more than 160 shares on Facebook in 30 minutes.


Man tries to get his dog to get down to business as wind and rain pelt him and his pet outside a Wilmington, N.C. hotel.

Wilmington, NC: Cape Fear River rises, covering downtown

5:30 p.m.: In the last two hours, the Cape Fear River has risen from well below its banks to cover more than a block of downtown, leaving Water Street submerged.

Onlookers splashed in the muddy flood and kayaked down Wilmington’s waterfront street. But no worries.

“It is what it is, man,” said George Roberts, 36, drinking a mix of tequila with a splash of mango. His family lives in a second-story apartment. “This one’s fine. It’s kind if losing steam compared to other storms.”

The Cape Fear River isn’t expected to crest until next week, officials said.

Zach Sullivan walks down a flooded Water Street as the Cape Fear River overflows it’s banks as Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday Sept. 14, 2018. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com


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Wilmington, NC: A family tragedy

3:30 p.m.: Wilmington officials confirmed the deaths of a mother and infant child crushed under a massive tree.

The two were pinned when the heavy oak collapsed on the back of their brick house on Mercer Avenue early Friday.

It took rescue officials nearly eight hours to free them using air bags and chainsaws, said Wilmington Deputy Fire Chief J. S. Mason.

The family’s father was cut free from the wreckage and taken to a Wilmington hospital, Mason said.

“It was their home,” he said. “They chose to stay.”

Rescue workers, police and fire department members wait to remove the bodies of a mother and child who were killed by a falling tree as Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wilmington, N.C. Friday Sept. 14, 2018. The father was transported to the hospital with serious injuries. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com


Southport, NC: ‘It’s a sturdy house’

2 p.m.: Eugene Tomlinson made all the preparations he could for Hurricane Florence. He said goodbye to his wife and four of his five children as they headed for higher ground in far-off places. He covered the windows of his house a tenth of a mile from the river in Southport, so the glass wouldn’t shatter. He made sure he had gas for the generator stowed in the garage and enough food for himself and his son Bert, who would be staying with him.

Then he spray-painted a message to any potential looters who might think his house was easy pickings: Stay’n & PRAY’N.

“I was worried about it taking two to four weeks to get back here,” Tomlinson said Friday as the storm began its slow crawl inland.

Tomlinson, pastor of The Point Baptist Church in town, grew up in Southport and said he has ridden out many hurricanes at his home, which his father built in 1956 after witnessing the wrath of Hurricane Hazel.

“It’s a sturdy house,” Tomlinson said, pointing to the exposed beams.

Eugene Tomlinson and his son Bert talk about why they chose to ride out Hurricane Florence in their Southport, NC home, Sept. 14, 2018.

After days of storm warnings, Southport finally began to get the first rain bands of Florence around 6 a.m. Friday. By late morning, the wind was blowing at a steady 35 mph, the Cape Fear River had topped the bulkhead along the town’s riverfront and water was filling the parking lot of Oliver’s Restaurant. As it usually does in a hurricane, water also filled the lot in front of Fishy Fishy Restaurant and neighboring businesses.

Tomlinson figured he and Bert, 17, would be fine, though live oaks and cedar trees were toppling in his neighborhood.

“We’re on a high spot,” he said just before the back side of Florence began to batter the town, threatening to drop even more rain than the front of the storm. “We’ve got surfboards and life jackets in the garage, if we need to paddle up the street. And I’ve got a boat on a trailer I could unhook, or my son has a jon boat.

“We have a couple of escape options if we need ‘em.”


Atlantic Beach, NC: Much damage, tired birds

1:10 p.m.: A gas station collapsed and roofs were missing on Atlantic Beach. Many power lines were down.

Though the Oceanana Pier apparently surfed, the Barnacle Bar did not.

Birds huddle against the wind and rain of Hurricane Florence at the Oceana Pier in Atlantic Beach, N.C. Friday morning, Sept. 14, 2018. Hurricane Florence moved ashore Friday morning bring heavy rains, wind, storm surge and flooding to eastern North Carolina. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

Meanwhile, the birds are exhausted. There was a pelican on the bridge, still and hunkered down. Seabirds doing the same on the sand, just standing there with their heads down.


Hillsborough, NC: A majestic loss

12:58 p.m.: Hurricane Florence claimed one of Hillsborough’s oldest and largest trees, and with it electricity to the town.

A tree thought to be about 200 years old toppled after being uprooted. A news release from the town said the red oak blocked Calvin Street and knocked out a power line when it fell. No injuries or other property damage were reported.

Orange Rural firefighters and Hillsborough police secured the area and directed traffic around the blocked street.

The tree was one of the first to be recognized in the town’s Treasure Trees program.


Myrtle Beach, NC: ‘We have a good community’

12:30 p.m.: A tall pine tree lay across the southbound lane of U.S. 17 Business at the north end of Myrtle Beach, blocking both lanes.

Jared Ryan, who lives in the Mariner motel a block from the beach, said most people were staying through the storm.

“We have a good community,” he said. “We will all work together.”


North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina's Ocean Boulevard experienced flooding as Hurricane Florence hammered the Carolina coasts on September 14, 2018.

Southport, NC: No sightseeing, please

Wind and surf from Hurricane Florence batter the Southport Fishing Pier and Waterfront Park in Southport, NC on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

11:15 a.m.: Sustained winds are at 36 mph in Southport, and low-lying areas are under water.

In some places it’s from heavy rain, others from the Cape Fear River, which is rolling over the bulkhead along the town’s waterfront as it does in storms.

Sightseers out looking are being stopped by local officers, who tell them to go back to a safer place.


Wilmington, NC: Taking a beating

11 a.m.: The older neighborhoods in Wilmington took a beating from 100-year-old oak trees.

Market Street, a main connector between downtown and Interstate 40, was blocked by oaks in at least a half dozen spots. Huge trees were broken and splayed across lawns or leaning in houses.

Streetlamps were smashed. Windows were broken. Chunks of roofing metal lay splayed in the streets.

Downtown Wilmington, while spared flooding from the Cape Fear River, was nearly unnavigable because streets were blocked by tree trunks.

And the storm kept blowing.


Amy Johnson captured this video of flood waters from the Pungo River pushed into East Street of Belhaven, NC by Hurricane Florence early Friday morning, Sept. 14, 2018.

Calabash, NC: Branches all over

9:15 a.m.: As the front edge of Florence hits Calabash, trees are losing branches and a few trees in low-lying areas have come down.

The tide is still low, so there is no flooding along the waterfront yet from the Calabash River.


Crews work to clear downed trees from roads across Brunswick County as Hurricane Florence slowly moves through the area Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

Little River, SC: Suddenly in the dark

Hotel refugees at the Sleep Inn in Garden City, SC. Martha Quillin

8:45 a.m.: Hurricane Florence refugees from North and South Carolina gathered in the lobby of the Sleep Inn on U.S. 17 in Little River.

Unlike many, they actually were enjoying a hot breakfast. But right in the middle of it, the power went out as the wind outside picked up.


Wilmington, NC: Good karma

8 a.m.: The only comfort at Comfort Suites arrived thanks to Mitchell Foor, a volunteer with a huge Dodge Ram.

Before the sun rose, he had a generator working in the truck bed, firing up the ice machine and the coffee pot.

Benjamin Landero tries to shoot video as hurricane-force winds pound the Comfort Suites in Wilmington, N.C., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, as Hurricane Florence makes landfall.. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

A storm veteran, he transported 100 people out of Lumberton in 2016 using the same Dodge.

“I’m a firm believer in karma,” he said in the hotel’s dark lobby.


Wilmington, NC: Not the usual breakfast

7:15 a.m.: At Wilmington’s Comfort Inn, the staff hunkered down in the three-story building rather than risk danger at home.

They brought husbands, mothers, children and dogs, huddled on sofas in the dark lobby.

Housekeeper Dee Branch brought her 5-month-old kitten, Alex.

“He’s watching out the window,” she said as the parking lot filled with water. “He ain’t tripping or nothing.”

Mitchell Floor (left) holds a flashlight as Comfort Suites general manager Beth Bratz (center) and employee Dee Branch go to make coffee as Hurricane Florence rages in Wilmington, N.C. Thursday Sept. 14, 2018. The area lost power around 4 a.m. and the facility was running small lights, phone chargers and the coffee machine on a generator. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

Even with winds gusting to 90 mph, she rose to fix breakfast.

“Definitely won’t be eggs,” she said.


Myrtle Beach, SC: Dogs left without food and water

6:44 a.m.: Police say three dogs were left at an evacuated home without food or water.

Officers were called to a home on Clark Street in reference to animal cruelty and found two small white dogs inside a chain-linked kennel, a report said. Police said there was also a small black dog inside the home.

While investigating, police found out the people who lived at the home had evacuated and would not be back until Sunday, authorities said.

Animal control took the dogs. The report does not say whether the suspect will face charges.


Morehead City, NC: A fierce night

6:33 a.m.: After a night of relentless wind and rain, Morehead City woke to more of the same early Friday. The fierce wind often sounded like someone pounding on the door of the Quality Inn in town.

Power has been off for hours. Landline phones are out, and cell coverage is going in and out.


A storm surge from Hurricane Florence caused the Neuse River to overflow its banks and flooded parts of New Bern, North Carolina, on September 14. Wind, rain and waves from the Category 2 storm began to lash the North Carolina coastline on Thursday.

Wilmington, NC: A dark morning

6:20 a.m.: Wilmington woke to blackness and howling winds Friday as the monster Hurricane Florence finally came ashore.

Much if not all the city endured what could be a multiday assault without power, navigating dark rooms with head lamps while trees bent double outside.

Flash flood warnings were in effect, and heavy winds with sideways rain made venturing outside impossible.


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