First Hurricane Florence deaths: mother, baby killed by tree

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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. The slow-moving, hurricane - downgraded to a tropical storm around 5 p.m. Friday - is expected to linger over the area this weekend continuing to create a unsafe situation.

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

The outer bands of Hurricane Florence have reached Wilmington, with weather officials saying the storm will bring unprecedented rain to the region.

The storm surge that has hit New Bern is "approximately 2 feet higher" now than it was during Hurricane Irene seven years ago, the National Weather Service office in Morehead City says.

Although the storm is beginning to move away, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said the Triangle should still expect heavy rain for the next 24 hours.

The worst of the storm's fury had yet to reach coastal SC, where emergency managers said it was not too late for people to get out.

"The National Hurricane Center said Florence is moving very slowly to the west at only 6 miles an hour, then is expected to turn to the southwest, increasing the threat for historic storm surge and catastrophic flooding to coastline areas and inland cities in North Carolina and SC".

It comes amid otherwise serious warnings for residents in North and SC as Hurricane Florence, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday, continues to put properties and lives at risk. Cooper cited a National Weather Service forecast that said almost the entire state could be covered in several feet of water. Hurricane-force winds extended 90 miles (150 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

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Storm surges, punishing winds and rain are turning some towns into rushing rivers - and the storm is expected to crawl over parts of the Carolinas into the weekend, pounding some of the same areas over and over. "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". Roof shingles were peeled off a hotel.

Since midnight, peak wind gusts reached 32 miles per hour in Raleigh and 47 miles per hour in Fayetteville. Roberts said numerous residents live near the Neuse and Trent rivers.

"I about jumped out of my skin", he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday morning. Six sheriff's officers came to his house to rescue him Friday morning, but he didn't need to leave since the water was dropping by then.

"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse. Local media said she had suffered a heart attack.

More than a million people along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate.

Nearly 20,000 people had taken refuge in 157 emergency shelters, Mr Cooper said.

Winds bent trees towards the ground and raindrops flew sideways as Florence moved in for an extended stay, with enough of its killer winds swirling overseas to maintain its power.

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