Florence’s onslaught could cue disaster in North Carolina

  • Michael and Polly Long walk down East Bay St. past a sign asking for Hurricane Florence to spare the Lowcountry in Charleston, S.C., as Hurricane Florence spins out in the Atlantic ocean Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

  • Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the area. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

  • Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle N.C., Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Hurricane Florence already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and more is to come.

Screaming winds bent trees and raindrops flew sideways as Florence’s leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday.

The storm’s intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 90 mph (135 kph) by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm’s slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Gov. Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

Forecasters said Florence’s surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding.

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