Hurricane Florence Storm Surge: The Craziest Videos & Photos

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Blowing ashore with howling 90 miles per hour (155 kph) winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster.

At least 150,000 people were without power in North Carolina early Friday with the brunt of the storm yet to come, according to utility companies.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 storm Thursday night, but it is still a major storm that will have a significant impact on North and SC and cause considerable damage to the region.

"This is a very unsafe storm", said FEMA's Long, urging people still in evacuation zones to heed orders to flee to safer ground.

"We are now still beyond the three day prediction envelope and the cone of uncertainty that we have of where the storm will go is big so I'm really hesitant to make any predictions about what it's going to be like here in Western North Carolina", says Young. The city said early Friday that two out-of-state FEMA teams were working on swift-water rescues and more teams were on the way.

Florence has been bearing down on the Carolinas for days, and it has expanded in size, with tropical-storm-force winds extending almost 200 miles from the storm's eye. And when a storm surge reaches 13 feet and results in severe coastal flooding, people near the Atlantic Ocean can drown very quickly. North Carolina will likely see eight months' worth of rain in two to three days, said National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Locklear in a video briefing. He stayed in the bar to ride out the storm.

The 2.6-magnitude quake was the state's fifth this year.

North Carolinians made last-minute preparations and hunkered down to await Florence's arrival.

"I do know it was a high volume of people leaving this town, I would say, comparable to most storms", said Harvey, the police chief.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

"If I am, I hope God protects us".

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More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse. "Today the threat becomes a reality", according to The Associated Press.

That's why Hurricane Florence is still an incredibly unsafe storm - it will contain extreme amounts of water, both coming up from the ocean in storm surge, and falling from the sky in heavy rain bands.

The catastrophe modeling firm said 250,000 homes in North Carolina alone are projected to be affected by the storm.

A surge is also likely along portions of the SC coast.

"We may be facing a situation where hurricane-force winds are weaker than anticipated but perhaps impacting a slightly broader region than once thought", he said.

Utility companies are predicting power outages that could reach between one-to-three million across both North and SC for days and possibly weeks.

Some local residents described a harrowing retreat as the storm hit early on Friday.

For people living inland in the Carolinas, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

"Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated", said Fisher, 74.