A.M. Update: Prolonged rain will bring floods

Eight dead in Florence storm

Navy ships will begin returning to southeast Virginia on Sunday but at least one jurisdiction on southwestern Virginia declared a state of emergency on Saturday, as officials predicted that Tropical Storm Florence might threaten parts of the state with catastrophic flooding this week.

Storm Florence weakened on Sunday as it swept through the Carolinas but dozens of communities are devastated and "epic" amounts of rain could still fall, officials said. "There is probably not a county or a person that will not be affected in some way by this very massive and violent storm". In Pender County, a woman died of a heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.

Two people died in Lenoir County. He said the gust was the strongest recorded in Wilmington since 1958.

Hundreds of thousands of homes across North and SC are without power and tens of thousands of people are in emergency shelters.

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.

"It's hard to believe it's going to get that high", says Elizabeth Machado, who came to the bridge to check on the river.

A member of the US Coast Guard walks down Mill Creek Road checking houses after tropical storm Florence hit Newport N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

"The fact that there haven't been more deaths and damage is awesome and a blessing", said Rebekah Roth, walking around Wilmington's Winoca Terrace neighborhood.

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Around 50 stranded people were airlifted by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard. "This is a 500- or 1,000-year event".

On Thursday, Florence was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds (193 km). It was downgraded to Category 1 before coming ashore on Friday near Wilmington.

At least five people have been killed so far in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence which was downgraded Friday afternoon to a tropical storm with winds of 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) along the U.S. East Coast.

More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel and hundreds more were rescued elsewhere from rising water.

"Life-threatening, catastrophic flash floods and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern to central Appalachians from western North Carolina into west-central Virginia through early next week, as Florence moves slowly inland", the NHC statement read. Some other parts of SC could see rainfall totals of up to 15 inches, forecasters said.

More than 800,000 homes and businesses have lost power and Mr Cooper said the danger from flooding would linger for days.

Cooper said floodwaters were continuing to rise, and he urged evacuees to "stay put" until they received "the official all-clear". Trump plans a visit to the region next week.

While the surges have subsided as Florence crawled inland at a snail's pace of 2 miles per hour during most of Saturday, the region was socked with a deluge of rain that has already flooded numerous rivers and dozens of roads. As of Saturday afternoon, about 752,000 people remained without power in North Carolina, along with 119,000 in SC.

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