In pictures: Hurricane Florence bears down on US east coast while Philippines brace for powerful Typhoon Mangkhut

Hurricane Florence

US authorities have warned of “catastrophic” freshwater flooding as Hurricane Florence hits America’s east coast with top sustained winds of 90mph.

Forecasters say the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland.

Many coastal streets have already been flooded in the Carolinas, despite Florence being downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre said in an update at 11pm EDT (4am BST) on Thursday that the storm’s eye was about 50 miles south of Morehead, City, North Carolina.

The core is also about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.

The storm is moving to the northwest at 6mph.

 

Someone wades through floodwater
Jamie Thompson walks through flooded sections of East Front Street near Union Point Park in New Bern, North Carolina (AP)
Forecasters say the centre of Florence is expected to move inland between Friday and Saturday.North Carolina governor Roy Cooper warned: “Don’t relax, don’t get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Today the threat becomes a reality.”

More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm approached, and more than 12,000 were in shelters.

Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

“It truly is really about the whole size of this storm,” National Hurricane Centre director Ken Graham said. “The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact – and we have that.”

Hurricane Florence menaces the coast
Waves slam the Oceana Pier and Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina (AP)

A message outside a shop
A message tells shoppers about supplies no longer available in South Carolina as Hurricane Florence approaches (AP)
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), which was heavily criticised as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year.

As Florence drew near, President Donald Trump tweeted that Fema and first responders are “supplied and ready”, and he disputed the official conclusion that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico, claiming the figure was a Democratic plot to make him look bad.

Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines cancelled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.

Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m probably a 7” in terms of worry, she said. “Because it’s Mother Nature. You can’t predict.”

Forecasters’ European climate model is predicting two trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com.

That’s enough water to fill the Empire State Building nearly 40,000 times.

A South Carolina beach during curfew
A police vehicle patrols the beach during an evening curfew which went into effect on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (AP)

Union Point Park in North Carolina
Union Point Park is flooded with rising water from the Neuse and Trent Rivers in New Bern, North Carolina (AP)
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.

Homeless after losing her job at Walmart three months ago, 25-year-old Brittany Jones went to a storm shelter at a high school near Raleigh. She said a hurricane has a way of bringing everyone to the same level.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how many generators you have if you can’t get gas,” she said.

“Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring everyone together. A storm can come and wipe your house out overnight.” 

Flooding in North Carolina
Residents at Trent Court Apartments wait out the weather as rising water gets closer to their doors in New Bern (AP)

Students measure wind speeds
Students from East Carolina University’s Coastal Storms class use anemometers to measure wind speeds at Union Point Park (AP)
Duke Energy Co said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its four million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.

Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm’s aftermath, it said.Florence’s weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who worried that the storm could still be deadly

.Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that was later downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the reception of a Wilmington hotel several miles inland.

“Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated,” said Mr Fisher, 74. “I’ve got four cats inside the house. If I can’t get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place.”

Authorities pushed back against any suggestion the storm’s threat was exaggerated.

The police chief of a barrier island in Florence’s bulls’-eye said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave.

“I’m not going to put our personnel in harm’s way, especially for people that we’ve already told to evacuate,” Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said.

Storm damage
Water damage can still be seen in a shop along Main Street nearly two years after it was flooded from Hurricane Matthew in Nichols, South Carolina (AP)
In the Pacific, Philippine authorities were evacuating thousands of people from the path of the most powerful typhoon this year, closing schools, readying bulldozers for landslides and placing rescuers and troops on full alert.

More than four million people live in areas at most risk from the storm, which the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii categorised as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

A member of the Philippine Air Force stands in front of a satellite image of Typhoon Mangkhut, locally named Typhoon Ompong, at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council operations centre (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Typhoon Mangkhut is on course to hit north-eastern Cagayan province early on Saturday.

It was tracked on Friday about 250 miles away in the Pacific with sustained winds of 127mph and gusts of up to 158 mph, Philippine forecasters said.

With a massive rain cloud band 560 miles wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the typhoon could bring heavy to intense rains that could set off landslides and flash floods, the forecasters said. Storm warnings have been raised in 25 provinces across the main northern island of Luzon, restricting sea and air travel.

NASA satellite image of Super Typhoon Mangkhut (Lauren Dauphin/NASA Earth Observatory via AP)

After the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory predicts Mangkhut will plow into the Chinese mainland early on Monday morning south of Hong Kong and north of the island province of Hainan.

Though it will weaken from a super typhoon to a severe typhoon, it will still be packing sustained winds of 109mph.

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